Oncologica®’s Coronafocus COVID-19 Test and Sequence platform enables rapid identification of variants of concern

The emergence of Covid-19 variants are a potential threat to the successful global vaccination programmes. Like all viruses, SARS-CoV-2 evolves over time through the acquisition of random mutations in its genome which is an innate characteristic of viral replication. Mutations have the potential to increase the virulence of the virus by for example increasing the transmissibility and/or the severity of the disease.

Of more concern is for the variant to evade the protective immunity generated by previous infection or by vaccination. At least three designated “variants of concern” have been reported including B.1.1.7 (Kent) which was first identified in the UK and drove a surge in cases, B.1.351 (South Africa), which was first identified in South Africa, and P.1 (Brazil), which was first identified in travellers from Brazil who were tested at a Japanese airport.

This threat is being mitigated though Covid-19 sequencing for people who test Covid-19 positive following PCR/antigen swab testing.

Rapid sequencing of swab positive cases enables immediate mobilization of NHS Track and Trace services to prevent the spread of high risk variants in the community.

Test and sequence has been introduced for international travellers arriving in the UK. All international arrivals must undertake PCR Covid-19 testing and quarantine for 10 days. The PCR test is required on or before day 2 and on or after day 8 of their quarantine period. For variant surveillance Covid-19 sequencing is required for cases testing positive.

Testing and sequencing needs to be completed in a short time window (72hours) so that the information can be effectively actioned, namely identifying and isolating individuals carrying high risk Covid-19 variants. To achieve this rapid reporting time Oncologica® has established Coronofocus ( ), an integrated Test and Sequence platform to combine high capacity PCR testing with SARS-CoV-2 variant identification. Notably Oncologica® utilises semiconductor sequencing technology that enables >99% coverage of the viral coding sequence enabling the precise identification of Covid-19 variants.

Coronafocus provides an effective solution to rapid test and sequence demands and is helping contribute to the UK surveillance programme which is preventing the spread of variants that can potentially circumvent vaccine immunity.