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Tweaked Israeli sewage test can check spread of coronavirus variants

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New Israeli technology can give health authorities around the world advance warning before populations are swept by coronavirus variants that are extra-transmissible or more likely to breach vaccine protection.

There is deep concern in the US and elsewhere that the British variant, catchier than regular COVID-19, is gaining a significant foothold.

And in Israel, where that strain already accounts for 95 percent of cases, there are worries about the South African variant, which has been diagnosed in more than 450 people and is thought to weaken vaccine efficiency. Meanwhile, on Tuesday the Health Ministry announced it had detected the first three cases of the New York variant, which is also feared to be less efficiently halted by vaccines.

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But authorities worldwide are struggling to get a picture of how fast variants are spreading. That is because such data normally relies on the sequencing of genetic material from individual test samples — a costly and lengthy process that is usually only performed on a subset of swabs. A technician collects nasal swab samples for COVID-19 at the coronavirus lab, at the Ben-Gurion International Airport on February 28, 2021. (Yossi Aloni/Flash90)

Researchers at Ben Gurion University say they have found a way to easily........

© The Times of Israel

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