LONDON – The SARS-CoV-2 variant first detected in India last year has joined those from the U.K., South Africa and Brazil as a “variant of global concern,” the World Health Organization said on May 10.
The FDA reported a new streamlined pathway for diagnostic testing as part of a serial testing program using pooled samples, a pathway that should enable the further reopening of the economy. However, the FDA’s Tim Stenzel said April 21 that this new pathway relied on accumulated data for molecular testing, and that the agency lacks sufficient data to provide a similar mechanism for this use of antigen tests.
The FDA has its hands full with the impact of the mutations to the SARS-CoV-2 virus, but test developers can count on an ever-increasing base of data for those viruses thanks to a new contract taken by the CDC. The CDC indicated recently that its sequencing efforts and that of other organizations churned out nearly 14,000 sequences for the week of April 3, but Aegis Sciences Corp., of Nashville, Tenn., announced April 7 that it had undertaken an agreement to perform next-generation sequencing of samples from all 50 states and Puerto Rico, ensuring plenty of access to up-to-date information on those mutations.
South San Francsico-based Twist Bioscience Corp. and Biotia Inc., of New York, received the first FDA emergency use authorization (EUA) for a capture-based next-generation sequencing (NGS) assay for the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. The technique reduces the likelihood of misdiagnosing or failing to identify mutations compared to standard sequencing.
The administration of President Joseph Biden announced March 17 a $10 billion allocation of funds for testing to reopen schools in the final months of the current school year, a source of revenues that was provided by the recently passed $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan. The news follows by one day a new FDA policy on screening tests that allows test developers to distribute tests designed to screen those who are asymptomatic without first validating the test for this use, although there are still questions as to whether this new push will yet again crimp vital testing supplies.
LONDON – The SARS-CoV-2 variant of concern that caused a wave of infection in Manaus, Brazil, in December and January has been found to be both more transmissible and to evade immunity conferred by prior natural infection with the virus. A combined Brazil/U.K. genome sequencing and epidemiological study found the variant, called P.1., is between 1.4 and 2.2 times more transmissible than earlier lineages, and can evade 25% to 61% of the protective immunity elicited by previous infection.
LONDON – The SARS-CoV-2 variant of concern that caused a wave of infection in Manaus, Brazil, in December and January has been found to be both more transmissible and to evade immunity conferred by prior natural infection with the virus.
LONDON – The EU is taking concerted action to detect new variants of SARS-CoV-2, investing €225 million (US$270 million) to increase viral genome sequencing to 5% of positive cases across Europe, and to carry out research on their evolution and transmissibility.
LONDON – South Africa has decided against using the 1 million doses of Astrazeneca plc’s COVID-19 vaccine already in the country to start the rollout of its national vaccination program, in favor of opening a phase IIIb study of Johnson & Johnson’s single shot product. “Over the next few days, we expect to announce a plan to expedite vaccination using [J&J’s] investigational vaccine in health care professionals in South Africa,” said Glenda Gray, CEO of the South African Medical Research Council and chair of the country’s research committee on COVID-19.