New technology which detects Covid-19 variants 'within 48 hours' launched

22 March 2021, 09:20

Ewan Quayle

By Ewan Quayle

Technology which can detect Covid-19 mutations "within a matter of 48 hours" will begin being trialled in the UK, it has been announced.

The new tech will be able to find virus changes in half the current time it takes and be used to attempt to stem any further spread of more aggressive strains.

It is being trialled by the government in NHS Test and Trace laboratories using samples from positive tests.

The ‘genotype assay testing’ could be used in addition to standard testing for the virus to identify cases quickly as public health officials aim to react faster to mutations of concern.

READ MORE: UK marks third consecutive record day of Covid vaccinations

Care Minister Helen Whately told LBC on Monday that current measures take "quite a few days" to detect new variants but the new innovation will mean public health officials can break the chains of transmission more easily.

New technology which halves current detection time for new Covid-19 variants is being trialled in the UK
New technology which halves current detection time for new Covid-19 variants is being trialled in the UK. Picture: PA Images

She said: "The advantage of that is that means we can take very rapid action to control and stop the spread of any variant of concern.

"At the moment, in order to identify that you've got a particular mutation, we can do genomic sequencing but that takes quite a few days.

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"This is a much quicker way to do this and clearly with this virus, the quicker you can act, the quicker we can more effectively control it."

Surge testing has been deployed in parts of towns and cities across the UK as NHS and Public Health England tracers seek to bring the spread of concerning mutations under control.

The new technology will use samples from positive Covid-19 tests
The new technology will use samples from positive Covid-19 tests. Picture: PA Images

Health Secretary Matt Hancock added: “Innovation is at the heart of our fight against COVID-19 and has a key part to play in controlling the spread of the virus. We must not stand still if we are to beat COVID-19 and safely ease restrictions in the coming months.

“That is why our goal is to eventually test every COVID positive sample for mutations, that indicate known variants, using this ground breaking new technology.

"This type of testing will help us rapidly identify variant cases and trace contacts quicker than ever before, helping stop outbreaks in their tracks and ensuring we can continue to follow the roadmap we have set out to get back to normal life."