UT Southwestern researchers create rapid COVID-19 test to detect variants

Scientists at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas have created a rapid COVID-19 test that can detect which variant a person has in just a few hours. 

The test, called CoVarScan, was developed by Jeffrey SoRelle, MD, a pathologist at UT Southwestern, and colleagues, according to a June 30 news release. The typical process for identifying which SARS-CoV-2 variant a person has relies on whole genome sequencing — a timely and expensive process that essentially reads the virus' entire RNA sequence. 

Instead, the ConVarScan looks at eight regions of the SARS-COV-2 virus to detect small mutations. In these specific regions, each variant looks different. The team evaluated how well the test works by running it on more than 4,000 COVID-19-positive swab samples collected at UT Southwestern from April 2021 to February 2022, and validated the results with whole genome sequencing. They found CoVarScan had very similar accuracy to the gold standard, according to findings published in Clinical Chemistry

Eventually, researchers anticipate the test can be used to better match treatments based on which variants a patient has, as well as help determine which variants are circulating in a community and if a new one is emerging. 

Dr. SoRelle plans to develop CoVarScan as a commercial test and has a pending patent application. 


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