Original Article

Ann Lab Med 2017; 37(6): 494-498

Published online November 1, 2017

Copyright © Korean Society for Laboratory Medicine.

Performance Evaluation of the PowerChek MERS (upE & ORF1a) Real-Time PCR Kit for the Detection of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus RNA

Hee Jae Huh, M.D.1, Ji-Youn Kim, M.T.2, Hyeon Jeong Kwon, M.T.2, Sun Ae Yun, M.T.2, Myoung-Keun Lee, M.T.1, Chang-Seok Ki, M.D.1, Nam Yong Lee, M.D.1, and Jong-Won Kim, M.D.1

Department of Laboratory Medicine and Genetics1, Samsung Medical Center, Sungkyunkwan University School of Medicine, Seoul; Center for Clinical Medicine2, Samsung Biomedical Research Institute, Samsung Medical Center, Seoul, Korea

Correspondence to: Chang-Seok Ki
Department of Laboratory Medicine and Genetics, Samsung Medical Center, Sungkyunkwan University School of Medicine, 81 Irwon-ro, Gangnam-gu, Seoul 06351, Korea
Tel: +82-2-3410-2709 Fax: +82-2-3410-2719 E-mail:

Received: February 3, 2017; Revised: March 26, 2017; Accepted: July 12, 2017

This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License ( which permits unrestricted non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Background: Molecular detection of Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) using real-time reverse transcription (rRT)-PCR assays is the method of choice for diagnosis of MERS. We evaluated the performance of the PowerChek MERS (upE & ORF1a) real-time PCR Kit (PowerChek MERS assay; Kogene Biotech, Korea) a one-step rRT-PCR assay for the qualitative detection of MERS-CoV.
Methods: We evaluated PowerChek MERS assay performance in comparison with nested RT-PCR and sequencing of the RNA-dependent RNA polymerase (RdRp) and N genes. To evaluate diagnostic sensitivity and specificity, 100 clinical specimens (50 positive and 50 negative for MERS-CoV) were simultaneously tested by using the PowerChek MERS and sequencing assays. Assay performance, including limit of detection and precision, was evaluated in vitro by using MERS-CoV RNA transcripts. Analytical specificity was evaluated with a diverse collection of 16 respiratory virus–positive clinical specimens and 14 respiratory bacterial isolates.
Results: The 95% limits of detection of the PowerChek MERS assay for the upE and the open rading frame (ORF)1a were 16.2 copies/μL and 8.2 copies/μL, respectively. No cross-reactivity was observed. The diagnostic sensitivity and specificity of the PowerChek MERS assay were both 100% (95% confidence interval, 91.1–100%).
Conclusions: The PowerChek MERS assay is a straightforward and accurate assay for detecting MERS-CoV RNA. The assay will be a useful tool for the rapid diagnosis of MERS and could prove especially important for MERS outbreak control.

Keywords: MERS-CoV, Real-time reverse-transcription PCR, Performance