INSIGHT: A population-scale COVID-19 testing strategy combining point-of-care diagnosis with centralized high-throughput sequencing

Qianxin Wu, Chengqu Suo, Tom Brown, Tengyao Wang, Sarah A. Teichmann, Andrew R. Bassett. Science advances 7 (7), 2021.


We present INSIGHT [isothermal NASBA (nucleic acid sequence–based amplification) sequencing–based high-throughput test], a two-stage coronavirus disease 2019 testing strategy, using a barcoded isothermal NASBA reaction. It combines point-of-care diagnosis with next-generation sequencing, aiming to achieve population-scale testing. Stage 1 allows a quick decentralized readout for early isolation of presymptomatic or asymptomatic patients. It gives results within 1 to 2 hours, using either fluorescence detection or a lateral flow readout, while simultaneously incorporating sample-specific barcodes. The same reaction products from potentially hundreds of thousands of samples can then be pooled and used in a highly multiplexed sequencing–based assay in stage 2. This second stage confirms the near-patient testing results and facilitates centralized data collection. The 95% limit of detection is <50 copies of viral RNA per reaction. INSIGHT is suitable for further development into a rapid home-based, point-of-care assay and is potentially scalable to the population level.