COVID-19 variants: Will tests be affected?

COVID-19 variants: Will tests be affected?
A nurse conducts COVID-19 test at a drive-thru (Source: WTOC)

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - A new variation of the COVID-19 variant was found in Alabama and WBRC asked state health leaders if tests can detect the mutations.

Dr. Karen Landers with the Alabama Department of Public Health said the manufacturers of the COVID-19 tests were very concerned about making sure they can detect mutations of the virus.

Dr. Landers said the tests are still effective at detecting COVID-19 mutations.

Landers said state and other laboratories send specimens to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for testing or “surveillance”.

What they do is map out the genetic code of the different strains.

Landers explains why that information is important.

“To ensure that when the variant shows up in AL, that there will be surveillance for that, and we’ll be able to identify that variant,” said Landers.

There are different types of COVID-19 tests. The most widely used Covid-19 tests are polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and lateral flow tests (LFTs).

PCR tests work by taking an upper respiratory sample by inserting a swab into the nose. The sample is tested for DNA patterns and other components.

An LFT for Covid-19 uses a liquid sample coming into contact with an absorbent pad fitted with components that react to the SARS-CoV-2 virus. PCR tests are considered superior to LFT’s. However, experts believe it is again unlikely that these tests will be unable to detect new viral variants.

Copyright 2021 WBRC. All rights reserved.