The race to find variants of COVID-19 has started in recent weeks in Quebec.

• Read also: All the developments of the pandemic

TVA Nouvelles had access to the laboratories of the Sainte-Justine University Hospital Center (CHU), where samples positive for the coronavirus are screened.

The aim of the screening is to find variants using a thermal cycler.

“We have a series of samples that was screened over the weekend (…) We carried out a PCR test, with 96 samples at a time, which lasts about 1h15”, explains the specialist in medical biology, Marc Desforges.

Thus, the researchers detect the genetic code of the coronavirus and the variants, without initially knowing whether they are from the United Kingdom, South Africa or Brazil.

The other step is therefore that of sequencing, which makes it possible to identify the variants with precision, including those which could be new.

This sequencing takes place in the laboratories of Génome Québec, which receives samples from Sainte-Justine.

“We could discover other variants. We do not hope so, but this is the very nature of the spread of a virus, ”said the vice-president, Génome Québec technological centers, Daniel Tessier.

“It is an automaton which handles high flow liquids and which effectively minimizes the risk of error. You put a DNA sample on an instrument like this and the machine will read the basics one after the other, it’s a bit like an alphabet. “

If the genetic code is not the same as the original coronavirus, they are variants and, possibly, sub-variants.

To begin with, Génome Québec will analyze 384 samples per week, but in June, there will be 1,200.

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Samples remain in the sequencer for 24 hours, but the entire preparation and analysis process takes at least 10 days. The results are then sent to Public Health.

And for each sample analyzed, you have to pay $ 70.

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