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Can new COVID strains be detected with current test methods?



COVID-19 checks are nonetheless in a position to detect the coronavirus’ present mutations with out challenge, however future mutations may trigger issues with accuracy.

The world has seen a lot of new COVID-19 strains unfold the previous couple of months. These new strains are created when the virus mutates. Provided that they’re mutations of the unique virus, there are worries it may trigger issues in detecting the virus in testing. 

THE QUESTION

Can the brand new strains nonetheless be detected by COVID-19 checks like PCR checks?

THE ANSWER

Up to now, sure. There’s no proof the newest strains have impacted testing as of but. Nonetheless, there’s a chance later mutations may hamper testing and power it to vary.

WHY WE ARE VERIFYING

Quite a few viewers have requested in regards to the new strains, significantly about how they’re detected and if present COVID-19 checks can nonetheless detect them.

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WHAT WE FOUND

An early January press launch from LabCorp, an organization that gives PCR checks, said “we now have not seen any influence” to testing sensitivity from COVID-19 mutations to that time.

In a World Well being Group information launch monitoring COVID-19 variants, the WHO didn’t state any of the brand new variants had an influence on the effectiveness of diagnostic testing. Whereas they specified some variants particularly had no influence on the effectiveness up to now, they said they have been nonetheless researching some and others weren’t anticipated to have a big influence.

That expectation was echoed by the CDC. Whereas they recognized the potential to evade detection by particular diagnostic checks as a doable consequence of the evolving COVID-19 variants, they mentioned it’s unlikely to be an issue. “Most business PCR checks have a number of targets to detect the virus, such that even when a mutation impacts one of many targets, the opposite PCR targets will nonetheless work.”

Nonetheless, every of those statements has included language to point that they haven’t seen any influence on testing effectiveness to date. That’s as a result of the potential of a future mutation impacting testing accuracy is feasible.

The FDA despatched a letter to well being care suppliers in early January warning about such a chance. The letter said that genetic variants could result in false negatives in molecular checks and that checks that detect a number of genetic targets are much less prone to those results than checks that detect a single genetic goal.

Dr. Stuart Ray, vice chair of medication for knowledge integrity and analytics professor of medication at Johns Hopkins Medication, defined that there aren’t routine medical laboratory checks for figuring out one pressure of COVID-19 over one other. He mentioned new strains are detected by sequencing the genome of the virus and evaluating it to beforehand sequenced genomes of the virus. “The strategies for sequencing all variants of SARS-CoV-2 are additionally mainly the identical; nonetheless, sequencing of the virus (to find out what variant it’s) stays comparatively unusual,” he defined.

A check not with the ability to differentiate between one COVID-19 variant and one other is ok in the meanwhile so long as the check can nonetheless precisely detect the virus’ presence as a result of, proper now, the medical remedy for COVID-19 is similar no matter what variant of the virus an individual has, he mentioned.

If the pandemic is stored beneath management, the potential of it mutating in a method that diagnostic testing can’t detect and even in a method that’s immune to the present vaccines is diminished.

“Commonplace COVID-19 precautions, together with masks, distancing, avoiding giant gatherings in shut areas, and hand hygiene ought to stay efficient with the entire newer variants. If the newer variants are considerably extra infectious, then we have to be further cautious in sticking to these precautions,” Ray mentioned.

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