Testing for new virus variants is crucial in order to be able to implement the correct infection control measures in time.

Today, there is only one method that can determine with certainty which virus variant a person is infected with.

It is about so-called sequencing.

A process in which the entire genome of the virus is mapped in the laboratory.

Today, around 10 percent of all positive corona tests in Sweden are sequenced, but it often takes a long time to get an answer, sometimes up to several weeks.

Quick test under development

Therefore, experiments are now underway with so-called point mutation PCR - a kind of rapid test.

- An intermediate variant between detecting the virus and mapping its entire genome is to look for the most important mutations and to do it faster, says Jan Albert, professor of infection control at Karolinska Institutet.

The sampling does not differ from a normal coronary test, it is still a stick that is inserted into the nose or throat, but instead of giving a result on whether the person in question is infected with the coronavirus, the analysis of the sample can thus give rise to a specific mutation.

They are currently used in 19 of 21 regions to try to identify the known more contagious variants.

The results show that they work relatively well in identifying the British virus variant, but that they are not yet as good at detecting the South African or Brazilian variant.

But there are hopes that the tests will be able to work both faster and more efficiently in the future.

- If the laboratories are able to perform these tests overnight or so, you can more quickly give information to the infection control doctors to look extra at the cases that show a variation and start infection tracking.

It can be of great value, says Jan Albert.

"Can achieve more"

In the Västmanland region, point mutation PCs have been used since the end of January.

The samples are sent to a lab in Germany and the answers from the tests sent during the first days of the week come already on Friday. 

Chief infection control physician Jan Smedjegård agrees with the hope that they can become even more effective in the future.

- If you can achieve testing that gives the opportunity to receive a signal within a few days that it is one or the other variant, then you can achieve much more.