Rutgers scientists develop PCR COVID test that can identify variants

Scientists at Rutgers University have developed a lab test that can identify variants of the virus causing COVID-19, they announced this week.

The PCR, or polymerase chain reaction, test is expected to greatly assist health officials in tracking the disease, as well as physicians treating patients infected with the coronavirus.

The test utilizes “molecular beacon” technology, seeking out molecules that carry genetic information to make proteins, Rutgers said. The technique was co-invented by Sanjay Tyagi, one of the paper’s authors and a professor of medicine at the Public Health Research Institute of Rutgers New Jersey Medical School.

“We were able to make a PCR test, just like the ones involved in a normal COVID-19 diagnosis, that detects not only the SARS-CoV-2 virus, but also identifies which variant is present,” Ryan Dikdan, a doctor student in Tyagi’s lab and first author on the paper, said in a prepared statement. “This is significant because we can now identify the variants as they emerge in every sample, very rapidly.”

Rutgers scientists hope to share the technology with other labs and testing companies, making variant information readily available.