Behind the fight to identify COVID-19 variants

Posted at 5:42 AM, Feb 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-03 05:42:06-05

One of the newest concerns in the fight against coronavirus is the variants of the disease that keep popping up.

Researchers at Stanford University are leading the way in screening and diagnosing samples of COVID-19 variants from the United Kingdom, South Africa, and Brazil.

One of those researchers is Michigan native Dr. Benjamin Pinsky, medical director of Stanford Clinical Virology Laboratory, who is a native of metro Detroit having grown up in Farmington Hills.

You can see the full interview in the video player above.

"We've been taking a two-pronged approach to identify these variants," Pinsky says. "We do targeted testing -- very similar to the RT-PCR nucleic acid amplification testing that are used for diagnosis -- as well as using next-generation sequencing, or whole-genome sequencing of the virus."

"Some of these variants are more transmissible, and we expect to see them increase in prevalence in the United States," he says.

"There is concern with these variants that they may limit the efficacy of the existing vaccines, although the UK variant, it suggests that it is still susceptible," Pinsky adds. "One really important thing to consider about the vaccine trials is that the vaccines are very effective at preventing severe disease, even if someone gets infected."