UW researcher finds new method to speed COVID variant tracking from weeks to hours

A researcher at the University of Washington School of Medicine and Microbiology has found a new way to speed COVID-19 variant tracking from weeks to mere hours. 

Microbiology professor Evgeni Sokurenko is leading the creation and future implementation of a new method to "fingerprint" all currently known variants. The method identifies the presence of dozens of mutations at once and requires only three ingredients: a dipstick, a common thermocycler instrument, and a processed test sample, according to UW Medicine.

"Upon coming into contact with the sample, the dipstick records which variant is present by exposing a series of lines, or bands. Every known variant of interest and concern has a correlating band pattern, which the test administrator can match to the sample," UW Medicine said. 

This method can identify the variant within two hours of the sample being tested. The current method of tracking the variants of the virus takes two weeks. 

Sokurenko says the test is already available as a prototype in the form of a same-day to next-day service in his lab on a collaborative basis, while a wider distribution of the full kit for clinical epidemiologists and researchers could come by this winter. 

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