Coronavirus: sampling now for future analysis

Biozentrum, University of Basel, Switzerland.

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Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics, Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, Massachusetts, USA.

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Resources for COVID-19 testing in many parts of the world are still limited. We suggest that future value could be realized if samples were to be widely taken now and saved for analysis as more resources become available.

Besides diagnostic screening, this sample analysis alone — or in combination with mobile and other data — could provide insight into incubation periods, the relationship between transmissibility and symptoms, disease progression in individuals, and the effectiveness of different mitigation measures.

Simple buffers that are commercially available or readily prepared in the laboratory (for details, see S. Menke et al. Front. Microbiol.; 2017) can indefinitely preserve nucleic acids in samples of saliva, nasal mucus and other biological material at room temperature. This form of sample preservation would obviate the need for refrigeration under difficult field or hospital conditions (see M. Camacho-Sanchez et al. Mol. Ecol. Resour. 13, 663–673; 2013).

Nature 580, 590 (2020)

doi: 10.1038/d41586-020-01267-y

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