A Guide to the COVID-19 Variants: What You Need to Know About Testing and Travel - ARCpoint Labs of Cincinnati East
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A Guide to the COVID-19 Variants: What You Need to Know About Testing and Travel

by | Dec 24, 2023 | Uncategorized

As experts in the healthcare industry continue to make significant steps towards finding a lasting solution to COVID-19, the virus keeps changing through mutations, creating various variants that can be challenging to fight using a single vaccine. To boost your immunity against them, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends getting tested and having primary and booster shots at intervals. 

But how do they test for COVID variants? You may wonder. In addition, does the COVID test detect the delta variant? Here is what you need to know about testing SARS-CoV-2 in Cincinnati.  

What is a variant?

Variants are viruses that have changed slightly from their original form to become more or less contagious. This adaptation can result from natural mutation over time or through human interference. Humans can combine different viruses to make one virus more potent than another. 

Which variants have clinical implications and are widely circulating?

Since COVID-19 became a global pandemic, various variants have emerged in different countries and spread to other parts of the world. According to the CDC, while experts have already identified some, we should expect more new variants. Common variants of COVID-19 include:

  • Omicron. First identified in South Africa, this variant was an easy-spreading COVID variant. Omicron is not as severe as other variants, but a severe rise in the number of cases may affect health services and jeopardize the well-being of others. If you have been tested and vaccinated, you boost your chances of recovering from the virus faster and stopping it from escalating to others. 
  • Delta. The Delta variant can be twice as contagious and more severe than other variants. Without the vaccine, your risks of getting the virus and transmitting it increases. 

The CDC also advises those vaccinated to stay updated with other COVID-19 vaccines since the vaccine is not 100% effective, and they can still contract and spread the delta variant. 

How do Omicron and other variants respond to diagnostic testing?

While studies about how variants like Omicron respond to diagnostic testing are ongoing, little has changed. People are still curious to learn “How do they test for COVID variants?”  Note that reliance remains on the accuracy of commonly used testing methods such as RT-PCR, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). 

However, detecting a smaller percentage of some Omicron sequences might not be accurate through RT-PCR tests. In this case, experts can use other PCR-based screening methods, such as Single Nucleotide Polymorphism genotyping, to identify the variant. 

Is the U.S. testing for variants?

How do they test for COVID variants in the U.S? In collaboration with other public health organizations, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), including the ArcPoint Labs of Cincinnati, keep monitoring SARS-CoV-2 variations in the United States. 

ARCpoint Labs provides the CDC with crucial testing data to advise the residents of Cincinnati and the U.S. on what measures to take to further control the spread of COVID-19. 

How PCR tests can detect Omicron

A PCR test is an accurate and sensitive testing technique researchers, and health experts use to copy segments of genetic material. Also known as molecular copying, this method detects Omicron by measuring the amount of SARS-CoV-2 genetic material in a sample. 

PCR tests in the U.S. rely on three genes to determine SARS-CoV-2 variants. A sample with the Delta variant causes all the genes to react. On the other hand, positive samples with Omicron cause only one gene to drop off. 

Can a rapid test tell me which variant I have? 

Rapid tests can’t tell you the variant you have. Unlike PCR tests that look for genetic material in a sample, rapid antigen tests only detect proteins of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Therefore, this method can be unreliable, especially among people with a low viral load.  

COVID-19 Testing in Cincinnati, OH

How do they test for COVID variants in Cincinnati, OH? If you are one of the people concerned about your health and being safe, our ARCpoint Labs of Cincinnati can offer you accurate and comprehensive tests. We are among the leading experts in drug and alcohol screening, corporate wellness programs, clinical lab testing, etc. Contact us today to schedule your testing to keep you and your loved ones protected. 

Featured Image: Okan Celik / iStock / Getty Images Plus

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