The government of UK is reportedly testing a new technology, that can quickly detect new mutations of COVID to assess whether samples that test positive contain known variants, across NHS Test as well as Trace laboratories.
The new technology, named genotype assay testing, is supposedly set to halve the time it presently takes to detect whether a positive coronavirus sample is a variant of concern and can be used in place of standard COVID-19 testing to identify cases more rapidly.
The UK government’s emphasizes that the controlling of variants of concerns is an important part of carefully easing the lockdown limitations across England. When faced with new type of variants, quick action has been taken to isolate cases as well control the spread, which includes improved contact tracing and increase testing.
The UK is, in fact, a leader in genomic sequencing across the globe, meaning the country is discovering and identifying more mutations than many other nations across the world.
This novel technology would mean that cases of COVID-19 variants of concern are identified much quicker than before, potentially reducing the time taken to detect a case by half. Presently the testing process takes around four to five days for genomic sequencing.
By informing those affected more swiftly, this might allow contacts of positive coronavirus cases to be traced more sooner, further breaking the COVID-19 chains of transmission, stopping the spread of COVID-19 variants and thus saving more lives.
Surge testing, involving sequencing, advanced contact tracing, and increased testing has been efficiently deployed in numerous targeted areas to help control as well as better understand the COVID-19 variants of concern.
Lord Bethell, Health Minister of UK, stated that using this test type to detect known COVID-19 variant of concern has potential to expedite knowledge as well as understanding of variants of concern as well as suppress their spread across the UK.
Genotype assays will also complement the current surveillance related work that utilizes genomic sequencing to look for possible variants in positive coronavirus samples. Genomic sequencing surveillance would continue to identify novel variants as well as mutations.
Places where novel mutations or variants are identified, the technology can further be adapted to test them as well, which means the technology could be deployed easily to track variants of highest concern.