Public Health England (PHE) has confirmed that lateral flow devices (LFDs) used in mass testing can detect the new COVID-19 variant.
Scientists at PHE’s Porton Down laboratory have carried out a rapid evaluation using clinical and laboratory grown samples containing the VUI 202012/01 variant to test whether it can be detected by lateral flow devices (LFDs) currently in use across the country.
Five LFDs were tested. Each device is either in use as part of mass testing or going through the final stages of validation at PHE. Each device successfully detected samples containing the new variant.
LFDs are one of the new tools being used to help detect COVID-19 and results can be delivered rapidly in under 30 minutes.
The devices can identify people who have high levels of virus but who do not have symptoms and would not otherwise be coming forward for a test. This is important as up to 1 in 3 people who have coronavirus never show any symptoms but may still be infectious.
Whereas the new variant affects the spike protein on the surface of the virus, the lateral flow devices tested work by detecting the nucleocapsid protein that is located inside the virus, which is less likely to be affected.
Dr Susan Hopkins, Senior Medical Advisor to PHE and NHS Test and Trace, said: