Qiagen launches new tools for tracking coronavirus mutations and strains

Qiagen researcher
This workflow was previously used to identify new mutations in eastern India, and provide a bird’s-eye view of spreading changes in the coronavirus’s genome. (Qiagen)

Qiagen launched new tools to capture and track emerging mutations in the novel coronavirus, which can lead to new strains that may change how the world responds to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The move is part of an expansion of the diagnostic company’s sample processing technologies, tests and research products aimed at the virus. This includes a single-day, next-generation sequencing panel for building libraries of the SARS-CoV-2 genome, plus software for interpreting and cataloging any alterations.

“These solutions aim to accelerate research into COVID-19 prevention and treatment by enabling deeper, more holistic insights into the biology of SARS-CoV-2,” CEO Thierry Bernard said. “The more we understand the novel coronavirus and its development, the better equipped the world will be to stop the pandemic.”

“We are partnering with leading institutes and companies to accelerate this vital research,” Bernard added. “Our new QIAseq SARS-CoV-2 Primer Panel and software pipeline will guide researchers into insights on the epidemiology, metatranscriptomics, immune response and pathways of the coronavirus—contributing to drug and vaccine development and public health strategies.”

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The two-step process uses reverse transcription technologies to synthesize complementary DNA from a sample of the coronavirus’s RNA code, and then generates libraries compatible with Illumina’s sequencing hardware.

The software then provides researchers with a visual map of the coronavirus’s evolution, showing variations in the viral genome and diverging strains across different populations and geographies.

This workflow was previously used to identify new mutations in eastern India. An epidemiological study, offering a bird’s-eye view on the spread of changes in the coronavirus’s genome—including variations in the spike protein used to infect human cells—was published in the Journal of Biosciences.

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“We urgently need more research into the evolution of this virus,” said study co-author Arindam Maitra, an associate professor at India’s National Institute of Biomedical Genomics. “As we found in eastern India, mutations are emerging in the SARS-CoV-2 genome that might modulate viral transmission, replication efficiency and virulence in different regions of the world. Genomic research is required to improve understanding of transmission patterns, tracking of the outbreak and formulation of effective containment measures.”