Hackensack Meridian coronavirus test screens for several variants, gives results in under 3 hours

Scientists at Hackensack Meridian Health have developed a test that can detect multiple coronavirus variants within two-and-a-half hours, the Edison, N.J.-based system said April 1.

The test is designed for use in healthcare organizations across New Jersey and will help physicians identify the best treatment option for patients based on which variant they have, according to the health system. The test can identify the U.K. variant (B.1.1.7), Brazil variant (P.1), South Africa variant (B.1.351), along with other variants that carry the E484K mutation. 

Researchers at Hackensack Meridian's Center for Discovery and Innovation used the test to examine 435 nasal swabs collected at eight care sites across the health system between last December and February and found a "dramatic increase in the frequency" of samples containing the E484K mutation, according to research published March 26 in the medical preprint server medRXiv.

In other countries, variants with the E484K mutation have been linked to reinfection and appear to resist some antibody therapies, researchers said. But vaccines are still broadly effective against variants with this mutation, they added.

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