Researchers from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev recently developed a rapid and cost-effective test to identify COVID-19’s British and South African variants within hours instead of days, enabling effective response and containment measures.

Standard coronavirus-variants testing involves sequencing the entire virus genome, a process that is expensive and time-consuming. The new test is based on the gene deletion that differentiates the South African or British strains of the virus from the original SARS-CoV-2.

The researchers tried their test on sewage samples from Beersheva, in which they detected the British variant but not the South African one—results that corresponded with the variants that were prevalent in Israel at the time.

Their findings were published in the MedRxiv preprint digital archive.

The researchers note that each test is applicable only for a specific variant. They are now developing tests for additional strains.

“My lab has been working hard throughout this pandemic to provide early warning and detection tools,” says BGU’s Professor Ariel Kushmaro. “We continue to refine our research in service to humankind.”

Meanwhile, joint Israeli-American research has shown that individualistic countries suffer higher rates of COVID-19 than do collectivist countries. This, researchers noted, is because individualistic societies are less likely to follow epidemic-prevention directives and measures.

This article was first published by Israel21c.

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