How variants affect COVID-19 testing: 4 takeaways

While most COVID-19 tests on the market can detect new variants sweeping the globe, continued vigilance is needed to ensure the virus does not evolve so much that it completely evades detection, scientists told The New York Times.

Four things to know:

1. Typically, diagnostics take a long time to create and are tested against multiple variants as part of the test development process, according to Lorraine Lillis, PhD, the scientific program officer at PATH, a global nonprofit focused on health equity that's been tracking COVID-19 testing. Because of the need to get COVID-19 tests to the market so quickly, researchers and test manufacturers are now assessing the tests' performance against variants in real time, Dr. Lillis added.

2. Earlier this year, the FDA warned that virus mutations could make some tests less effective, but there is no evidence that the CDC's five "variants of concern" are completely evading detection by current tests, according to the report. 

3. However, test manufacturers and regulators should maintain constant vigilance on test efficacy since the virus is constantly changing, scientists said.

4. The FDA said it's also monitoring its coronavirus sequencing databases weekly to see if the SARS-CoV-2 virus is evolving in a way that could significantly hinder diagnostic testing.

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