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New Technology Halves Time Currently Taken to Identify If Positive COVID-19 Sample Contains Variant of Concern

By LabMedica International staff writers
Posted on 01 Apr 2021
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A groundbreaking new technology to rapidly detect new COVID mutations indicating whether positive test samples contain known variants is being trialed by the UK government.

The technology - known as ‘genotype assay testing’ - is being trialed by the UK government in NHS Test and Trace (England) laboratories is set to halve the time it currently takes to identify if a positive COVID-19 sample contains a variant of concern, and could be used in addition to standard testing for COVID-19 to identify cases quickly.

The new technology will mean that cases of variants of concern are detected faster than before - potentially halving the time it takes to detect a case, which is currently around four to five days for genomic sequencing. By notifying those affected more quickly, this could allow contacts of positive cases to be traced sooner, breaking the chains of transmission, stop the spread of variants and saving lives.

Genotype assays would complement existing surveillance work that uses genomic sequencing to look for variants in COVID-positive samples. Genomic sequencing surveillance will continue to detect new variants and mutations. Where new variants or mutations are identified, the technology could be adapted to test for them as well, meaning the technology can be easily deployed to track the variants of most concern.

“Innovation is at the heart of our fight against COVID-19 and has a key part to play in controlling the spread of the virus. We must not stand still if we are to beat COVID-19 and safely ease restrictions in the coming months,” said UK Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock. “That is why our goal is to eventually test every COVID positive sample for mutations, that indicate known variants, using this ground breaking new technology. This type of testing will help us rapidly identify variant cases and trace contacts quicker than ever before, helping stop outbreaks in their tracks and ensuring we can continue to follow the roadmap we have set out to get back to normal life.”

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