VCU Medical Center lab testing for new UK COVID-19 variant

VCU Medical Center.
VCU Medical Center.((Source: Capital News Service))
Updated: Jan. 26, 2021 at 3:13 PM EST
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - VCU Medical Center is one of the first labs in the state to be equipped to test for the new, highly contagious COVID-19 variant which was first detected in the United Kingdom.

The Virginia Department of Health confirmed the first case of the variant in the state on Jan. 25.

The test is the same that health officials have been using throughout the pandemic, which generates a unique pattern of results that may indicate that a person has the UK strain.

“We essentially run three tests within the COVID-19 test in order to detect three different genes of SARS-COV-2 – the virus that causes COVID-19. One of these genes shows us the “spike” protein in the virus. In the U.K. strain, this gene is mutated and creates a “signature” on our test results. Essentially, that signature tells us that a patient may have the new COVID-19 variant,” Christopher Doern, Ph.D., director of microbiology at VCU Health, said.

VCU is working with the Division of Consolidated Laboratory Services to confirm results and to better understand how prevalent the new strain is in the state.

VCU Medical Center’s testing for the variant is suggestive but not definitive, so officials are working with DCLS to confirm all results.

There is also another new variant that has emerged in South Africa but VCU’s test will not show any unique results for this strain.

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