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New Covid test could HALVE the time taken to identify mutant strains

New Covid test that spots variants faster could HALVE the time it takes to identify mutant strains, experts say

  • New variant test will soon be testing every Covid positive sample for mutations
  • Genotype assay testing could halve the time it takes to spot virus mutations 
  • The new system is currently being trialled in NHS Test and Trace laboratories

A ‘groundbreaking’ new test that can rapidly identify emerging variants of coronavirus is being tested.

The technique – called genotype assay testing – could halve the time it takes to spot coronavirus mutations, the Department of Health and Social Care said. It currently takes four to five days.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: ‘This type of testing will help us rapidly identify variant cases and trace contacts quicker than ever before, helping stop outbreaks.’

The technique – called genotype assay testing – could halve the time it takes to spot coronavirus mutations. Surge testing is seen being carried out in areas of Gloucestershire (above) for the Brazilian variant of the virus

Health minister Lord Bethell said: ‘Using this test to identify known variant of concern cases has the potential to accelerate our knowledge and understanding of variants of concern and halt their spread across the country.’

The technology can also be adapted to test for new variants. It is hoped the system will allow contacts of positive cases to be traced sooner and potentially stop the spread of more infectious strains.

Controlling the transmission of Covid-19 variants of concern is an essential part of the Government’s road map to easing lockdown restrictions in England.

It is hoped the system will allow contacts of positive cases to be traced sooner and potentially stop the spread of more infectious strains

The new system, which is being trialled in NHS Test and Trace laboratories, could eventually be used in addition to standard Covid-19 testing to identify cases quickly.

Mr Hancock said: ‘We must not stand still if we are to beat Covid-19 and safely ease restrictions in the coming months.

‘That is why our goal is to eventually test every Covid positive sample for mutations, that indicate known variants, using this groundbreaking new technology.’

European countries are already seeing pockets of the South African variant, with studies suggesting vaccines work less well against this strain of the virus.


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