Roche recently announced the launch of a new cobas SARS-CoV-2 Variant Set 1 Test to detect and differentiate between viral variants, recognizing the growing prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 variants, such as those first seen in the United Kingdom, South Africa, and Brazil.
“Viruses naturally evolve over time,” Thomas Schinecker, CEO of Roche Diagnostics, said. “While most mutations do not have a clinical impact, some variants need to be tracked carefully as they seem to spread more easily and quickly. Continued surveillance is essential for public health. Our latest solution provides laboratories a fast and efficient way to investigate these variants found in infected individuals and the potential impact on existing therapies, vaccines, and tests.”
Designed to detect mutations among the spike proteins in these viruses — which allow the virus to attach to and enter human cells and cause COVID-19 — the test’s creators are hopeful it will help assess the spread of circulating variants and monitor their impact on existing therapeutics and vaccines. Mutations of these spike proteins have been associated with increased human-to-human transmission among the variants — a major concern, considering the original form already started a worldwide pandemic.
There is also concern these variants could lead to decreased therapeutic and vaccine efficacy, and in some cases, lethality.
The cobas variant test runs on widely available, high-volume cobas throughput systems that allow labs to reduce testing complexity and hasten turnaround. It is meant for research purposes only. Additionally, Roche has stressed that the variant test’s introduction is not in response to any reductions in the capability of its own existing diagnostic tests for COVID-19. Those tests have been unaffected by known mutations, though are being continuously monitored in the event that does happen.