Teaching during COVID-19 pandemic in practical laboratory classes of applied biochemistry and pharmacology: A validated fast and simple protocol for detection of SARS-CoV-2 Spike sequences

PLoS One. 2022 Apr 6;17(4):e0266419. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0266419. eCollection 2022.


The pandemic caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus (COVID-19) is still a major health issue. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced the university teaching to consider in high priority the switch from in-presence teaching to remote teaching, including laboratory teaching. While excellent virtual-laboratory teaching has been proposed and turned out to be very useful, the need of a real-laboratory in-presence teaching is still a major need. This study was aimed at presenting a laboratory exercise focusing (a) on a very challenging therapeutic strategy, i.e. SARS-CoV-2 diagnostics, and (b) on technologies that are playing a central role in applied biochemistry and molecular biology, i.e. PCR and RT-PCR. The aims of the practical laboratory were to determine: (a) the possibility to identify SARS-CoV-2 sequences starting from a recombinant plasmid and (b) the possibility to discriminate cells with respect to the expression of SARS-CoV-2 Spike protein. This activity is simple (cell culture, RNA extraction, RT-qPCR are all well-established technologies), fast (starting from isolated and characterized RNA, few hours are just necessary), highly reproducible (therefore easily employed by even untrained students). We suggest that this laboratory practical exercises should be considered for face-to-face teaching especially if the emergency related to the COVID-19 pandemic is maintained. The teaching protocol here described might be considered in order to perform fast but meaningful in-presence teaching, making feasible the division of crowded classes in low-number cohorts of students, allowing the maintenance of the required social distance.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Biochemistry* / education
  • Pharmacology* / education
  • RNA
  • SARS-CoV-2* / genetics
  • Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus* / genetics
  • Teaching*


  • Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus
  • spike protein, SARS-CoV-2
  • RNA

Grants and funding

This work was supported by the MUR-FISR COVID-miRNAPNA Project (FISR2020IP_04128) to RG and AF (Ministero dell'Università e della Ricerca: www.mur.gov.it). The funders had and will not have a role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.