Uruguayan researchers develop new COVID-19 test

The country also sequenced the entire genome in local patients.
Publication date: 02/04/2020

In record time, Uruguay managed to respond to the challenges of the global COVID-19 pandemic, demonstrating once again the commitment and leadership of its scientific professionals.

Following the agreement signed between the Ministry of Public Health (MSP), the University of the Republic (UdelaR) and the Pasteur Institute of Montevideo, a test to detect positive cases of coronavirus was developed and its application will begin this week. Directed by Dr. Gonzalo Moratorio, a team of researchers from the Molecular Virology Laboratory of the School of Science of UdelaR and the Virus Evolution and Experimentation Laboratory of the Pasteur Institute, activated their talent and conviction to face the current health situation.

The talent of the national professionals, its internationally recognized scientific institutions and a synergic ecosystem that favors research are some of the qualities that distinguish Uruguay in the region and the world. The country has become an innovation pole chosen by prestigious research institutes and R&D centers. With strong government support, ample availability of specialized human resources and an appropriate regulatory framework, the country is called to be a leader in the Life Sciences sector.

The test will substantially expand access to COVID-19 diagnosis. According to a statement released by the institution, its development could supply the local market and have a positive impact on cost of diagnosis. In addition, the diagnostic application will be free "for the entire population that requires this study after medical indication and with the corresponding technical authorization," details the official communication.

In response to the World Health Organization's (WHO) proposal, Uruguay has strengthened its institutional response and will be included in the list of nations with the greatest diagnostic capacity in the world. The procedure developed by the Uruguayan researchers will be applied in several laboratories in the country and will allow the application of 1000 tests per day, according to the president of the National Health Board (Junasa), Luis González Machado, as stated in a note dated March 24 by El Observador newspaper. This means an estimated 290 tests per day per million inhabitants, which places Uruguay at the level of countries like Germany and South Korea, recognized for their successful strategy to combat the virus.

Thanks to the work of its scientists, Uruguay has been able to face the expansion of the virus and thus avoid the lack of inputs for its detection.

Uruguayan scientists study COVID-19 to improve response to the epidemic

The Institut Pasteur of Montevideo took a further step in the national strategy to fight the COVID-19 pandemic and sequenced the first complete genomes of SARS COV 2 from 10 patients with COVID-19 in Uruguay. 

According to the institution's official statement, the study used Oxford Nanopore technology. The analysis is very useful in the current situation because it will allow locating the origin of the strains that entered the country and to determine if there are different variants of the coronavirus in Uruguay today. This data is useful because it helps to know how to manage the closing of the borders, and also to know which variants of the virus are in the country, helping to manage health care and to see if control measures are being taken in time.

Another achievement of the Pasteur Institute has been the creation of a virus monitor in Uruguay, developed by the Microbial Genomics Laboratory. Its objective is "to provide easily interpreted, accurate and updated information on the epidemiological situation of COVID-19 in Uruguay". To learn more about the COVID-19 Monitor in Uruguay, click here

Although there are still some stages to go through in this crisis, Uruguay once again bets on its talent and highly qualified human capital, which is recognized worldwide as one of the country's most valuable assets when it comes to showing its uniqueness in the pharmaceutical industry, research, and technology.