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Keeping Up

As new variants of SARS-CoV-2 arise, the Atlantic writes that tests for the coronavirus may need to be updated.

It notes that, currently, most tests are performing well, but adds that "keeping tabs on test performance is crucial, especially while the pandemic rages on in many parts of the world," and adds that the US Food and Drug Administration has put together a list of tests that could be affected by viral mutations.

Most tests in use in the US, the Atlantic says, detect specific parts of SARS-CoV-2's RNA genome, such as stretches of its nucleocapsid protein gene and spike protein gene. While changes to those viral genes may stymie tests' abilities to detect the virus, most tests detect multiple parts of the viral genome and can still determine whether the virus is present, it notes.

But going forward, the Atlantic writes that newer tests are both focusing on parts of the viral genome that are less likely to change and on multiple targets. "[R]esearchers and companies are keeping close watch, tracking the virus's many modifications and ensuring that tests are still up to snuff, similar to what's been done for years with the flu," it says. "Testing is, at its core, about keeping the virus in our line of sight — even through a costume change or two."

The Scan

Positive Framing of Genetic Studies Can Spark Mistrust Among Underrepresented Groups

Researchers in Human Genetics and Genomics Advances report that how researchers describe genomic studies may alienate potential participants.

Small Study of Gene Editing to Treat Sickle Cell Disease

In a Novartis-sponsored study in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers found that a CRISPR-Cas9-based treatment targeting promoters of genes encoding fetal hemoglobin could reduce disease symptoms.

Gut Microbiome Changes Appear in Infants Before They Develop Eczema, Study Finds

Researchers report in mSystems that infants experienced an enrichment in Clostridium sensu stricto 1 and Finegoldia and a depletion of Bacteroides before developing eczema.

Acute Myeloid Leukemia Treatment Specificity Enhanced With Stem Cell Editing

A study in Nature suggests epitope editing in donor stem cells prior to bone marrow transplants can stave off toxicity when targeting acute myeloid leukemia with immunotherapy.