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Direct, Cost-Effective COVID-19 Tests Identify UK/South African SARS-CoV-2 Variant and Reduces Test Time from Days to Hours

By LabMedica International staff writers
Posted on 19 Mar 2021
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Scientists have developed direct rapid cost-effective COVID-19 tests that successfully identify the UK or South African variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

The tests developed by scientists at the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (Be'er Sheva, Israel) reduce the time needed to determine whether an infection is caused by a variant from days to hours. Comparatively, current tests for the UK and South African coronavirus variants are either expensive, time-consuming, or indirect. The current standard for coronavirus variants testing is sequencing the entire virus genome, which is expensive and time-consuming.

The new recently-developed RT-qPCR rapid tests are based on the gene deletion that differentiates the variants from the original SARS-CoV-2 strain. The scientists held trials of their tests on sewage samples from Beer-Sheva and successfully detected the UK variant but not the South African variant, which corresponded to the variants prevalent in Israel at the time.
"My lab has been working hard throughout this pandemic to provide early warning and detection tools. Our detection system of corona in wastewater successfully completed a pilot program in 14 cities around Israel," said Prof. Ariel Kushmaro who supervised the development of the tests. "We continue to refine our research in service to humankind."

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Ben-Gurion University of the Negev

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