Hober A, Tran-Minh KH, Foley D, McDonald T, Vissers JP, Pattison R, Ferries S, Hermansson S, Betner I, Uhlén M, Razavi M, Yip R, Pope ME, Pearson TW, Andersson LN, Bartlett A, Calton L, Alm JJ, Engstrand L, Edfors F
Elife 10 (-) - [2021-11-08; online 2021-11-08]
Reliable, robust, large-scale molecular testing for SARS-CoV-2 is essential for monitoring the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. We have developed a scalable analytical approach to detect viral proteins based on peptide immunoaffinity enrichment combined with liquid chromatography - mass spectrometry (LC-MS). This is a multiplexed strategy, based on targeted proteomics analysis and read-out by LC-MS, capable of precisely quantifying and confirming the presence of SARS-CoV-2 in PBS swab media from combined throat/nasopharynx/saliva samples.<br />The results reveal that the levels of SARS-CoV-2 measured by LC-MS correlate well with their corresponding RT-PCR readout (r=0.79). The analytical workflow shows similar turnaround times as regular RT-PCR instrumentation with a quantitative readout of viral proteins corresponding to cycle thresholds (Ct) equivalents ranging from 21 to 34. Using RT-PCR as a reference, we demonstrate that the LC-MS-based method has 100% negative percent agreement (estimated specificity) and 95% positive percent agreement (estimated sensitivity) when analyzing clinical samples collected from asymptomatic individuals with a Ct within the limit of detection of the mass spectrometer (Ct ≤30). These results suggest that a scalable analytical method based on LC-MS has a place in future pandemic preparedness centers to complement current virus detection technologies.