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Coronavirus Testing is Making Some Serious Progress in Singapore; New Test Helps Link Cases

Workers wearing protective gears spray disinfectant as a precaution against the COVID-19 at a local market in Daegu, South Korea. (Image: AP)

Workers wearing protective gears spray disinfectant as a precaution against the COVID-19 at a local market in Daegu, South Korea. (Image: AP)

The Ministry of Health (MOH) of Singapore confirmed in a statement that a locally transmitted COVID-19 infection cluster at Grace Assembly of God is linked to the cluster at The Life Church and Missions Singapore, where two travelers from Wuhan had visited and are likely to be the source of infection.

Vishal Mathur
  • Last Updated: February 27, 2020, 11:06 AM IST
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Medical researchers in Singapore have made progress in establishing the links in Coronavirus cases in the country, using a new testing method. The Ministry of Health (MOH) of Singapore confirmed in a statement that a locally transmitted COVID-19 infection cluster at Grace Assembly of God is linked to the cluster at The Life Church and Missions Singapore, where two travelers from Wuhan had visited and are likely to be the source of infection. The serological test has been developed by researchers from the Duke-NUS Medical School and is the world’s first in attempting to link clusters of Coronavirus cases.


“The research team at Duke-NUS Medical School had earlier successfully cultured the COVID-19 virus in less than a week after Singapore confirmed its first COVID-19 case. Using the virus and genetic material derived from the virus, the research team had then rapidly developed several specific laboratory tests to detect the virus-specific antibodies for contact tracing and other applications,” says the MOH in an official statement. In a Facebook post, Singapore’s Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat wrote, “Researchers at Duke-NUS Medical School have done Singapore proud as they developed a serological test that can detect antibodies in blood samples to confirm infections like COVID-19. This breakthrough allowed the Ministry of Health, Singapore and the Singapore Police Force to discover a previously unestablished link between the two church clusters so as to facilitate subsequent contact tracing work.”

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The laboratory test that is currently used to confirm Coronavirus, or COVID-19 infection, is a molecular test called Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR). This detects the presence of viral genetic material in a biological sample obtained from a patient who may be suffering from Coronavirus. The limitation is that this test will not work if the patient has recovered from the virus infection, and his body’s immune system has cleared the virus—and that makes it hard to trace and track the spread of the virus.

At the time of writing this, Singapore has 91 confirmed cases of Coronavirus. The country has seen a slowdown in new COVID-19 cases in the country over the past few days, which is a positive considering countries in Asia including South Korea and Japan have seen a massive spike in the spread of the Coronavirus, as have Iran and Italy in other parts of the world. South Korea has reported 1,146 confirmed cases of Coronavirus while Japan has 170, Italy has reported 322 cases while Iran has 95 reported COVID-19 cases—these are among the worst hit countries. China is the worst hit by far, with 78,064 cases reported from Mainland China as well as 85 in Hong Kong and 10 in Macau.


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