Researchers in Saudi Arabia develop local coronavirus diagnostic test

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A group of Saudi researchers at the Research Center of King Faisal Specialist Hospital (KFSH) in Riyadh developed a diagnostic test to detect coronavirus infection, state news agency SPA reported on Friday.

The test is based on analyzing the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) of the COVID-19 virus and has been approved by the Saudi Food and Drug Authority (FDA).

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PCR tests detect the genetic material of viruses and are the go-to for testing influenza infection, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

The CEO of the Research Center at KFSH, Dr. Ali al-Zahrani, said that the center had the equipment to produce "primers".

Primers are short, single-stranded DNA sequences used in the PCR technique. The primers bind to the virus’ RNA (the molecular compound which carries the genetic codes of viruses) to convert it into DNA, enabling the PCR to detect it, according to the Mayo Clinic in the United States.

The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Center (KFSH&RC) Dr. Majid al-Fayyadh said that the newly developed test will enable the hospital to test coronavirus laboratory samples efficiently using a local product.

Al-Fayyadh added that this helps in facing any shortages in commercially manufactured products, abroad or inside the Kingdom, due to the high demand amid the pandemic.

He also said the hospital and research center are ready to produce primers for the diagnostic test for use in local laboratories and are willing to share the protocol with labs in the GCC to face the shortages of the commercial ones.

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