Quick guide to perform laboratory testing for SARS-CoV-2

Guidance on Laboratory Testing

The first step is to consider the WHO interim guidance to laboratories and stakeholders involved in laboratory testing of patients who meet the definition of suspected case of pneumonia associated with a novel coronavirus. Here the WHO recommendations:

It is also recommended to consider the CDC Interim Guidelines for Collecting, Handling, and Testing Clinical Specimens

Laboratory Biosafety

It is important to consider the laboratory biosafety regarding SARS-CoV-2. Here the WHO recommendations

Here the CDC Interim Laboratory Biosafety Guidelines for Handling and Processing Specimens

Processing of Sputum Specimens for Nucleic Acid Extraction

The CDC provides a guidance for liquefaction of sputum specimen prior to downstream nucleic acid extraction and molecular testing.

RNA Extraction

In order to obtain highly purified RNA it is important the use of correct extraction method. The CDC recommends the following protocols

RNA isolation alternatives

As SARS-CoV-2 diagnosis requires a process of RNA extraction, commercially available kits for the purpose are in short supply, encouraging the study of different alternatives to perform the molecular assays. Here some approaches: Approache 1 | 2

Molecular assays

The WHO has provided several molecular assays to diagnose SARS-CoV-2. Here the complete list of protocols:

Here a simplified version of the protocols:

The CDC has a dedicated protocol available here.
Other commercially available assays or in development for the diagnosis of COVID-19 can also be accessed here.


Researchers are evaluating the efficiency of available protocols. Here some works: