Covid-19 Testing—What’s RNA got to do with it? Part 2

RNA Extraction Technology for SARS-CoV-2 Detection

March 25, 2021




In Part 1  of our blog series on COVID-19 viral RNA extraction and detection, we introduced the need for rapid, accurate SARS-CoV-2 viral screening technology. In the second half of our series, we examine the process in detail and the importance of using optimal technology.


Viral Load and RNA Detection

SARS-CoV-2 viral load is directly proportional to the amount of viral shedding that occurs [1]. This means a higher copy number of the virus, whether from one patient or several, will result in a higher number of viral RNA particles being shed into the environment, including the local wastewater catchment. Higher viral loads can be detected relatively easily, while detection of the low viral copy numbers present at the outbreak of a disease requires more accurate and sensitive detection methods.


Not all RNA extraction methods are created equal, however. High extraction efficiency and isolation of high-quality RNA are essential to successful, reliable signal amplification and detection. Pall’s Nucleic Acid Binding (NAB) products, the NAB Nanosep® Spin Device and the NAB AcroPrep™ 96-well filter plate, are designed for higher binding and therefore higher extraction yields, through the inclusion of an innovative double-layer, silica-based quartz glass fiber media. Highly efficient binding also reduces the risk of cross-contamination between samples, an important factor when using the device for SARS-CoV-2 viral extraction.


SARS-CoV-2 RNA Extraction Applications


Both the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines, which have currently applied for FDA emergency use approval, are based on messenger RNA sequences from the SARS-CoV-2 virus. While many years of research have gone into the development of RNA vaccines, this will be the first instance of FDA approval for this vaccine format. The successful development of these vaccines is a testament to the technology behind them and to the hard work of the many researchers involved.


High-quality RNA is critical to the success of downstream applications such as RT-PCR, viral quantification, disease tracking, and vaccine development and testing. Figure 1 shows nucleic acid extraction with the AcroPrep NAB filter plate results in high-quality RNA using either commercial or standard research protocols.


Electropherograms RNA

The NAB Nanosep spin device is designed with low-medium throughput applications in mind. A single device can be used to perform experiments using leftover or preferred reagent kits. This provides an economical alternative to expensive commercial extraction kits. The spin device is also extremely efficient and can recover from 10,000 down to 50 base pairs, allowing researchers to analyze the widest range of nucleic acid fragments in a single spin device.


AcroPrep NAB filter plates offer a 96-well format suitable to high-throughput applications. These filter plates have capabilities similar to nucleic acid extraction columns and provide high-quality isolation and purification of RNA and genomic DNA.  Both the Nanosep spin device and AcroPrep filter plates are thus ideally suited for viral RNA isolation and extraction workflows.


Assuming it will still be months before large portions of the population can be immunized, it is critical to optimize every tool we have at our disposal to turn the tide on tracking COVID-19 and halting community spread before it happens. The global shortage of essential supplies including RNA extraction kits, has the potential to stall COVID-19 research and testing. Pall RNA extraction technologies are helping in the fight against COVID-19, by assisting researchers around the globe in SARS-CoV-2 related workflows.


Request a sample of the Nanosep spin device or the AcroPrep Advance 96-well long tip filter plate for Nucleic Acid Binding (NAB).



1. Zhou R., et al. Viral dynamics in asymptomatic patients with COVID-19. Int J Infect Disease. 96:288-290. Jul 2020.



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