A new Covid-19 test developed by scientists in the US can accurately detect all current variants of SARS-CoV-2 within hours. The new test called CoVarScan, can find the signatures of eight hotspots on the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19.
CoVarScan was tested on samples collected from more than 4,000 patients, researchers at the University of Texas’s Southwestern Medical Center said.
According to the Hindu, the research, published recently in the journal Clinical Chemistry, shows that the test is as accurate as other methods used to diagnose COVID-19, and can successfully differentiate between all current variants of SARS-CoV-2.
Jeffrey SoRelle, an assistant professor at UT Southwestern said that, “using this test, we can determine very quickly what variants are in the community and if a new variant is emerging,”.
“It also has implications for individual patients when we are dealing with variants that respond differently to treatments,” Dr. SoRelle added.
How to identify the variant?
The many tests that exist generally detect either a fragment of SARS-CoV-2 genetic material or small molecules found on the surface of the virus. The tests don’t determine which variant it is.
These is also the worry that these tests are not accurate in detecting some variants and could possibly not detect future strains.
A time consuming and very expensive method – Genome sequencing is used to find out which variant of Covid a patient has. The method relies on hi-tech equipment and analysis to figure out the entire RNA sequence which the viruses contain.
What does CovarScan do?
The Hindu says that, CoVarScan hones in on eight regions of SARS-CoV-2 that commonly differ between viral variants. It detects small mutations — where the sequence of RNA building blocks varies — and measures the length of repetitive genetic regions that tend to grow and shrink as the virus evolves.
The method relies on polymerase chain reaction (PCR) — a technique common in most pathology labs — to copy and measure the RNA at these eight sites of interest.