By Jonny Tickle
Russian scientists have registered the first testing system to detect the ‘British’ strain of Covid-19. The news comes from the country’s health watchdog Rospotrebnadzor, whose epidemiology research institute developed the kit.
The strain was announced by UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson in late December and has now been detected in many other countries, including Russia. At the time, Patrick Vallance, London’s chief scientific adviser, said that the new mutation could spread up to 70 percent faster than the original virus.
“The new test system quickly detects the presence of the mutant strain,” Rospotrebnadzor explained in a statement. “[It] is designed for a maximum concentration of the virus at 106 copies/m. This avoids false-positive results when detecting mutations in samples with very high viral load.”
The government agency also noted that the reagent testing kit has passed clinical trials and has high accuracy.
“The new technology can be used to develop reagents for detection of any other SARS-CoV-2 mutations as well as other infectious agents where rapid mass testing is required,” the watchdog said.
Following the discovery of the new strain, Russia halted flights to Britain for a week, from December 22. Since then, the ban has been extended multiple times, with the current stoppage due to end on February 17.
Last week, Rospotrebnadzor announced the development of a high-precision Covid-19 test, which will speed up the process by three to four times. A conventional PCR test takes up to five hours to give a result, whereas the new method needs just 90 minutes.
“For clinical samples with high or medium viral load, values of sensitivity and specificity were 100 percent,” the watchdog revealed.
In January, scientists from Siberia’s Vector Center were the first in the world to publish a photograph of the British Covid-19 variant, after it was isolated from a Russian patient in December. The Vector Center, located near Novosibirsk, is also the creator of one of Russia’s coronavirus vaccines, named EpiVacCorona.
As things stand, official numbers say that Russia has confirmed 4,086,090 cases of Covid-19 since the pandemic began. The country’s infection figures are the fifth largest in the world, behind the US, India, Brazil, and the United Kingdom.