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What is CoVarScan? A new COVID-19 test that can detect all variants in hours

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Scientists in the United States have developed a new test that can quickly and accurately identify all current coronavirus (COVID-19) variants. The CoVarScan test, which finds the signatures of eight hotspots on the deadly virus, can detect all current variants of SARS-CoV-2 within hours.

The findings were published by researchers at the University of Texas (UT) Southwestern Medical Center in the United States after testing samples from over 4,000 patients.

The results of CoVarScan tests were recently published in the Clinical Chemistry journal. According to the findings, the test is as accurate as other methods for diagnosing Covid. The researchers also noted that the test successfully distinguished between all current SARS-CoV-2 variants.

“Using this test, we can determine very quickly what variants are in the community and if a new variant is emerging,” said Jeffrey SoRelle, an assistant professor at UT Southwestern and senior author of the study. When dealing with variants that respond differently to treatments, it also has implications for individual patients.

In most cases, scientists use genome sequencing to determine which COVID-19 variant a patient carries. The procedure is both time-consuming and costly. The tests also rely on sophisticated equipment to analyze the RNA sequences contained in the viruses.

How does CoVarScan work?

During the research, the CoVarScan had 96 per cent sensitivity and 99 per cent specificity as compared to whole genome sequencing.

The CoVarScan test detects eight SARS-CoV-2 regions that commonly differ between viral variants, according to the researchers. It detects minor mutations in order to determine the length of repetitive genetic regions that grow and shrink as the virus evolves.

The polymerase chain reaction (PCR) is used to copy and measure the RNA at these eight sites of interest.

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