Coronavirus: unrivalled testing capacity


The University of Liège has developed a unique method of screening for coronavirus. It uses a self-swab kit, and is fully automated and inexpensive.

This new method of increasing the number of tests is made possible by simplifying and streamlining all stages of the process.

First of all, sampling will no longer be carried out by medical personnel, as is the case today using a swab in the nasal passages. As Fabrice Bureau, ULiège's Vice-President of Research, explains, "It has been shown that saliva is not very different from nasopharyngeal fluid for detection purposes, so we can use a saliva sample that has been placed in a suitable tube by the person being tested."

Then comes the more delicate step of handling the samples to be analysed in the laboratory. This new method means that there is no need to expose medical personnel either. "These are automated machines that will open the tubes and transfer them to the boxes for the viral RNA extraction stage," continued Fabrice Bureau.

This type of screening will initially be launched in September 2020 in the Liège region, with 50 to 60,000 tests per day. But the goal is to extend this system to the whole country by ensuring that we have the capacity to test the entire population once a month. This is because better monitoring of virus circulation could prevent a generalised 'second lockdown' if the virus re-emerges.