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BACKGROUND: Although active surveillance SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern (VOCs) is required for proper outbreak control measures, many lower income countries find it challenging to detect VOCs by carrying genomic sequencing alone, due to limited resources. METHODS: VOCs can also be identified by the unique mutations in the spike protein by real-time PCR that detect these single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). We used a multiplex, real-time PCR assay for detection of these SNPs for identification of the prevalence of different SARS-CoV-2 VOCs in 16/26 districts in Sri Lanka. RESULTS: Of the 664/934 that were subjected to the multiplex qRT-PCR, 638 (96.1 %) detected L452R and K417 in the channels and were identified as the delta variant. 25 samples (3.9 %) detected N501Y, with K417 were considered as the alpha variant. Of 10/16 districts in Sri Lanka, the delta variant was the only VOC detected. CONCLUSIONS: This multiplex real-time qRT-PCR which identifies certain SNPs specific to the VOCs appears to be a fast, cheaper and less technically demanding method to generate data regarding the spread of different SARS-CoV-2 variants, and is a suitable method for lower income countries, to supplement the data generated by genomic sequencing.

Original publication




Journal article


J Virol Methods

Publication Date





Multiplex PCR, Mutations, SARS-CoV-2, Sequencing, Single nucleotide polymorphisms, Variants of concern