Testing kit is able to detect virus in its mutated form

THE new and more contagious strain of Covid-19 can be picked up by the island’s testing machine.

Director of Public Health Dr Nicola Brink. (Picture by Adrian Miller, 29050820)
Director of Public Health Dr Nicola Brink. (Picture by Adrian Miller, 29050820)

As soon as the Bailiwick’s Public Health team were given the genome for the mutant variant, they started working to discover whether the local testing capabilities would be able to detect it.

Dr Nicola Brink, the Director of Public Health said: ‘The first thing that we looked at was the testing, our laboratory testing targets various parts of the viral genome and we’ve always been cognisant of the fact that it’s an RNA virus and it can mutate, so we’ve targeted multiple areas of the genome.

‘So our frontline assay, for example, uses a combination of a nuclear protein together with another protein target, and then we have a confirmatory assay which has two different targets.

‘We’ve looked at the area of the genome that we’re targeting and we’re absolutely happy that our testing is not compromised by this new variant.

‘So our testing would pick up this variant if we were to see a case in the Bailiwick.’

It is not uncommon for viruses to mutate, especially coronaviruses such as Sars-CoV-2, so the development of a new strain was expected.

The evidence that the mutation seems to spread far more quickly and is moving fast across the UK, means that extra caution is necessary.

The symptoms involved with the new strain are understood to be the same, so Dr Brink said that recent positive Covid-19 samples would be sent to the UK to find out if the variant had reached Guernsey.

‘To detect the mutant strain we would have to do full sequencing of the virus.

‘As a matter of good practice we will send our last isolate off-island to be sequenced.

‘We won’t get the result back at once, it’ll take weeks to get it back, but we’ll get a good handle of what’s going on.

‘You know how much I like the evidence of what’s going on and we need to have a good map of what’s going on.

‘We’ll wait and see what we get from that, but that I would have done anyway in the face of a new variant.’

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