A COVID-19 variant undetectable with standard PCR tests has been discovered in Finland

Variants are popping up everywhere. In Finland, a specific one is worrying scientists because it might be invisible to PCR tests.

Bad news about coronavirus seem never-ending. British scientists have recently found yet another variant on the territory, which seems to have originated in Kenya this time. Now, Finland is joining in the fray, with a variant of their own they've just discovered, and not an inconsiderable one at that.

Similar mutations to the British variant

It was in mid-February that scientists discovered this particular strain in a Finnish patient. But the mutation probably did not originate in Finland, as the country has few enough cases as it is.

Still, Finnish scientists are calling for extreme caution, as mutations have appeared in the new variant, Fin-796H, which have also been detected in the variants from Great Britain and Brazil.

No clear information as of yet

For the time being, however, the Finnish researchers at Vita Laboratories in Helsinki see no reason to panic. Whether this new strain of Corona is particularly contagious or resistant to the vaccines is not yet known, as virologist Ilkka Julken explained to the Finnish broadcaster YLE:

We do not yet have clear information on whether this new strain is easier to transmit or whether it compromises immune protection.
PCR testing Mufid Majnun@Unsplash

Do PCR tests not work here?

Nevertheless, the researchers want to keep a close eye on the variant, because they fear that the mutation will cause conventional PCR tests to fail when detecting Fin-796H.

The reason: the tests only react to a very specific genetic sequence of the viral RNA—if the sequence has been modified by the mutation, it may not be possible to determine an infection with this new Corona variant using the conventional PCR tests.

Meaning that for now there is no real way to determine the extent of this strain's spread about the world.

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