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Israeli scientists develop fast, cost-effective COVID test to identify British, South African variant

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The test produces results in just hours as opposed to days

By ILANIT CHERNICK

Scientists at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) have developed a direct and rapid COVID test that is able to identify the British or South African variant.

Until now, most tests have been indirect, are costly, and take days to produce results, however, this cost-effective test, taken with just a swab, can identify the variant within hours.

Under the supervision of Prof. Ariel Kushmaro, Dr. Karin Yaniv of the Environmental Biotechnology Lab and the Avram and Stella Goldstein-Goren Goren Department of Biotechnology Engineering, and Dr. Eden Ozer of the Department of Life Sciences have developed “two RT-qPCR rapid tests based on the gene deletion that differentiates the variants from the original SARS-CoV-2 [coronavirus] strain.”

“The current test for coronavirus variants uses sequencing the entire virus genome, which is expensive and time-consuming,” the scientists said.

Kushmaro said that his “lab has been working hard throughout this pandemic to provide early warning and detection tools.” 

The team tried their tests on sewage samples from Beer-Sheva and successfully detected the British variant and not the South African one, which corresponded to the variants prevalent in Israel at the time.

“Our detection system of corona in wastewater successfully completed a pilot program in 14 cities around Israel,” Kushmaro said. “We are continuing to refine our research in service to humankind.”

The research was supported by Ben-Gurion University’s Coronavirus Research Taskforce and the Israeli Ministry of Health.

Their findings were just published on the preprint digital archive MedRxiv.

*Featured Image by Anyaivanova/Shutterstock

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