COVID-19 TEST PROCEDURECoronavirus Test at Heidelberg University

Students and staff members of Heidelberg University now have the opportunity to be regularly tested for SARS-CoV-2 in the context of a study. A new Covid-19 test procedure has been developed at the Center for Molecular Biology of Heidelberg University (ZMBH) under the leadership of Prof. Dr Michael Knop and Dr Simon Anders, in collaboration with the Center for Integrative Infectious Diseases Research (CIID) of the Heidelberg University Hospital and its area of virological diagnostics. It is based on a gargle sample with a common salt solution and detection of viral SARS-CoV-2 RNA by means of an isothermal enzymatic reaction.

The first results indicate that the sensitivity of the Heidelberg test procedure roughly corresponds to the standard PCR tests currently being used for diagnosis and is far more sensitive than commercial antigen tests. The test was developed during the first wave of the pandemic and has been published in peer-reviewed journals.


The test takes around eight hours and the samples are analysed at a central test station. Individuals can frequently be identified as early as two or three days after being infected, before they really become infectious. In addition, the virus can be detected long after the infection. This makes the test particularly suited to uncovering infection chains and stopping the spread of the virus. In order to organise the test efficiently we have divided staff and students into three programmes.

The coronavirus test is an experimental test that has been approved only for research purposes (the ethics commission has submitted its opinion). The test laboratory is not accredited or approved for clinical diagnostics. A false positive or negative result is therefore possible. The test station cooperates with the Diagnostics Laboratory of the University Hospital and the health authority of the Rhine-Neckar District.

The test has not yet been awarded a CE label and cannot be purchased at present in the EU.

The test has a limit of detection (LoD) between CT from 33 to 35.