Israel obtains super coronavirus detector that tracks mutations

Advanced DNA sequencing device that can detect mutations in the coronavirus arrives in Israel.

By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News

An advanced DNA sequencing device that can detect mutations in the coronavirus arrived in Israel on Sunday, Makor Rishon reported.

The device, special ordered from the United States by the Health Ministry, can decipher more than 1,000 DNA sequences from coronavirus tests within hours, enabling the quick tracking of mutations.

The device, the Novaseq 6000 made by Illumina, a San Diego-based maker of  life science tools, costs over a million shekels ($300,000).

Until now, the Central Laboratory for Viruses at Tel HaShomer, the institute responsible for tracking the spread and variants of the coronavirus within Israel, had equipment with the ability to sequence a low number of samples at any given time.

The addition of the new American device will enable Israel virologists to better and more efficiently track the spread of mutations, including the UK and South African variations recently discovered in Israel.

“It’s very exciting – we have made huge efforts to obtain this device,” Prof. Ella Mendelssohn, director of the Central Laboratory for Viruses, told Makor Rishon.

“We are working around the clock to sequence the coronavirus DNA and identify mutations that may be more contagious and change our ability to fight the spread,” said Dr. Neta Zuckerman, director of the Bioinformatics Unit at the Central Laboratory for Viruses.

“We are taking survey samples from across the country and morbidity numbers, trying to get a picture that will give us a more comprehensive look at the types of corona that are present here in Israel and where,” she added.

Virologists from the Central Laboratory for Viruses believe that the RNA vaccine will still be effective against coronavirus mutations.

“Our great fortune is that although these viruses have undergone changes, the technology of vaccines that produce antibodies for the ‘spike’ of corona protein manages to make the body produce antibodies that are able to respond to these changes as well,” the institute said in a statement.