Monday, February 22, 2021

Very Brief Blog: WSJ Features COVID Sequencing Variants

In a lead article released February 22, 2022, Wall Street Journal features COVID sequencing, and notes that some COVID PCR tests that already exist pick up some sequences in COVID - e.g. render a positive - while not seeing the important mutation that underlies the U.K. Variant.   Brianna Abbott writes,

The highly transmissible Covid-19 virus variant that first emerged in the U.K. can partially evade a commonly used coronavirus test. Some health authorities are using that fact to their advantage.  

As more-transmissible variants emerge as a concern in the fight against the virus, the vast majority of Covid-19 diagnostic tests haven’t been affected. But for a handful, including one from diagnostics giant Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc., TMO -2.25% a section of the test can’t pick up on variants including the U.K. variant that have a specific mutation, the company, laboratories and health officials who have processed its tests said. 

Yet the other parts of the tests still work. So if a test comes up positive for Covid-19 but that portion of the test fails, that could indicate that the samples contain the U.K. variant. Some laboratories are exploiting the bug to more quickly find cases that might be caused by the fast-spreading variant.

  • See the full WSJ here.
  • See Thermo Fisher's educational page on COVID testing, here.

Some Related Links

WSJ also cites HELIX tests.   COVID SEQ tests with EUA include Helix here, which uses several PCR amplicons detected via NGS reads.  Guardant also has an EUA COVID-SEQ test (N1 gene, P gene), here.   Illumina has a sequence-reporting 98-target COVID SEQ test, EUA here.   

Biden Administration is expected to inject up to $1.6B more funds into COVID testing and sequencing, here.