Rapid testing to differentiate between COVID-19 & other infections

covid rapid testing, respiratory viruses

Shiao Fong Yee, Marketing Communications Manager at Novacyt Group, discusses the importance of rapid testing to differentiate between COVID-19 and other infections in light of facing winter respiratory viral challenges

The importance of a test that differentiates COVID-19 from other winter respiratory viruses has been highlighted by clinical experts. They agreed that the rapid clinical diagnosis of hospital patients presenting with breathing difficulties was essential to identify COVID-19-positive patients for speedy isolation.

Novacyt’s genesig® SARS-CoV-2 Winterplex, a multiple assay for winter testing, was singled out as an ideal test for the needs of the 2021/22 winter flu season.

Real-time detection with genesig® SARS-CoV-2 Winterplex

Gemma Stokes, Principal Scientist – Bioinformatics, Novacyt Group, told a NovaTalk webinar audience that genesig® SARS-CoV-2 Winterplex enables simultaneous real-time PCR detection of multiple winter viruses in one kit.

She explained how this assay embeds 18-months of Novacyt COVID-19 testing development and expertise, building on the Company’s original COVID-19 assay from January 2020, plus simultaneous testing for all vaccine strains of Flu A and Flu B, and RSV A and B. genesig® SARS-CoV-2 Winterplex successfully distinguishes between the viruses, giving an accurate result in as little as 90 minutes.

“We know that respiratory viruses, including SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for COVID-19, have a high incidence of infection during winter, especially in temperate regions. However, these winter respiratory illnesses have many similar signs and symptoms. We wanted to design a kit for healthcare settings, which allowed hospital staff to quickly test an incoming respiratory patient, to find out whether they needed to isolate them because of COVID-19 or treat them on a respiratory ward if it was a different respiratory infection.”

“We can say with confidence that genesig® SARS-CoV-2 Winterplex tests for COVID-19, able to detect all Variants of Concern and Variants of Interest,” said Gemma. “We analyse on average 30,000 SARS-CoV-2 sequences a day, and produce weekly bioinformation reports on this virus, so we’re constantly making sure that our assays have COVID-19 covered.

covid rapid testing, respiratory viruses

Unprecedented landscape

Delegates at the latest NovaTalk webinar on 11th November 2021 entitled ‘Winter is Coming,’ heard about the uncertainty over which winter respiratory viruses were likely to dominate in Europe and the U.S.

Dr Anthony Cooke, CEO, Cambridge Clinical Laboratories, highlighted the potential for viral spread over the next few months, saying: “The winter landscape for viral infections is unlike anything experienced before, certainly in this generation.”

Dr Cooke was one of three experts brought together by the clinical diagnostic company, the Novacyt Group, to review the impact of COVID-19 on other respiratory viruses, and to discuss the expected winter challenges for healthcare providers. The discussion consensus was that there was no certainty over how the seasonal respiratory viruses would pan out – but with many healthcare systems predicting widespread flu outbreaks, it was essential to differentiate between COVID-19 and similar symptoms in other illnesses.

The webinar opened with an overview of the 2020/2021 winter virus period by Dr Jesse Papenburg, Scientist, Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre. Data demonstrated how public health restrictions introduced to contain the spread of COVID-19 stopped other respiratory diseases in their tracks.

“For any respiratory virus, it needs to seed itself somewhere in the population, and then you need the population to intermingle for the virus to spread. When we introduced non-pharmacological interventions such as social distancing, mask-wearing and then lockdowns, we slowed the spread of COVID-19 and other respiratory infections,” said Dr Papenburg.

“Young children and the elderly are particularly susceptible, with 50% of babies contracting RSV in their first year, and 90% of children being infected with it before their third birthday. RSV is the leading cause of bronchiolitis in young children, triggering hospitalisations and in some cases, death. RSV is a global problem, with around 64 million cases a year, of which 3.4 million are severe cases requiring hospitalisation. Between 66,000 and 199,00 under-fives die from RSV each year.”

Seasonal Influenza A and B is also a major health concern, he said, particularly for children under five, elderly people over 65, pregnant women and those with underlying health or immuno-compromised conditions.

Mathematical modelling was predicting a resurgence in respiratory viruses, he said, with fears over a lack of immunity as people weren’t exposed to seasonal viruses during COVID-19 lockdowns. “We’re facing the unknown at the moment – bracing ourselves for a resurgence in all manner of respiratory disease,” he said.

Dr Cooke stressed the need for effective testing, to differentiate between COVID-19 and other respiratory viruses – particularly as the symptoms of COVID-19 and flu were very similar, especially in school-age children.

“The rates of COVID-19 are still high, particularly in children going to school – with around one in 60/70 currently infected in the UK. But if you start with a cough, how do you know whether to isolate because it’s COVID-19 or whether it’s just a cold and you can carry on going to work?

“Lateral flow testing for COVID-19 is good for discovering high viral load and being able to say whether you’ve got COVID or not at that point. But if you’ve just been infected, maybe only just started with a sore throat, then lateral flow tests won’t pick that up. You need effective PCR tests to manage COVID-19. That’s the gold standard, and that’s what gives an employer much better control over the disease status in his workforce, limiting any loss in productivity by only sending home those who have tested positive for COVID-19.”

To watch the whole webinar NovaTalk: Winter is Coming! please click here. 


Please note: This is a commercial profile

© 2019. This work is licensed under CC-BY-NC-ND.

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Novacyt Group
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