Houston Methodist infectious disease pathologists have discovered new COVID-19 cases caused by the SARS-CoV-2 UK B.1.1.7 variant are doubling weekly. By mid-March the number increased sharply to 648 cases from 305 just a week earlier. The findings come from the latest batch of 8,857 virus genomes sequenced from patients with positive COVID-19 tests in the first two months of 2021, representing 94% of Houston Methodist cases.
Picture viral RNA as a single component that you can break into one million pieces. Now imagine reassembling those pieces together, literally like a jigsaw puzzle. If there’s a chipped corner or if a piece won’t fit snugly as it should, consider that a virus mutation or variant. That’s genomic sequencing, in a nutshell, when it comes to identifying variants of COVID-19, according to Peter Stoilov, associate professor of biochemistry at the West Virginia University School of Medicine.
Rutgers researchers have designed a new rapid test that can detect all three of the rapidly spreading variants of the coronavirus in a little over one hour – much shorter than the three to five days required by current tests, which can also be more technically difficult and expensive to perform.