March 15, 2021: Current tests for the British and South African coronavirus variants are either expensive, time-consuming, or indirect. BGU scientists have developed a direct rapid cost-effective test that successfully identifies the British or South African variant. The tests reduce the time needed to determine whether an infection is caused by a variant from days to hours.
Their findings were just published on the preprint digital archive MedRxiv.
The current standard for coronavirus variants testing is sequencing the entire virus genome, which is expensive and time-consuming. Now, Dr. Karin Yaniv and Dr. Eden Ozer, under the supervision of Prof. Ariel Kushmaro, have developed two RT-qPCR rapid tests based on the gene deletion that differentiates the variants from the original SARS-CoV-2 strain.
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.
“My lab has been working hard throughout this pandemic to provide early warning and detection tools. Our detection system of corona in wastewater successfully completed a pilot program in 14 cities around Israel,” says Prof. Kushmaro, “We continue to refine our research in service to humankind.”
Dr. Yaniv and Prof. Kushmaro are members of the Environmental Biotechnology Lab and the Avram and Stella Goldstein-Goren Goren Department of Biotechnology Engineering. Dr. Ozer is a member of the Department of Life Sciences. Additional researchers include Noam Plotkin and Nikhil Suresh Bhandarkar.
The research was supported by Ben-Gurion University’s Coronavirus Research Taskforce and the Israeli Ministry of Health.