Los PCR de laboratorios y hospitales son analizados para descubrir nuevas variantes. El proceso tarda hasta cuatro días.

Is it possible to know which variant of coronavirus I have?

Symptoms are not indicators. Two experts explain the impact of determining the type of coronavirus and detail which is the most common variant in Ecuador.

In Ecuador, the presence of the omicron variant, of the coronavirus, but it has been determined that 90% of infected patients present the delta variant.

Paúl Cárdenas, Phd in genomic medicine and researcher at the San Francisco de Quito University (USFQ), and Fernando Espinoza, director of the Research and Consulting Center of the Espíritu Santo University (UESS) explain the process by which they are determined what kind of variants are there in the country.


Although there are, few private laboratories in Ecuador identify a variant by means of a PCR test, although it is not the safest way «since some variants they share the same mutations, ”says Cárdenas.

«The only way to technically and scientifically verify the variant type It is through a genetic sequence«, Says Espinoza.

In Ecuador, Inspi, UESS and USFQ are in charge of sequencing samples from public and private laboratories and hospitals that send weekly samples from different parts of the country.

The process of identifying variants on the sequencing it can take up to four days because what it does is analyze “each little letter of the 30,000 that the virus genome has to identify the entire virus and then analyze what genes and mutations it has and what lineage it belongs to.” At the moment, none of the institutions has confirmed the presence of the variant from Africa.

Symptoms are not indicators

Both experts agree that the symptoms between variants do not change (for the most part), so the type of disease cannot be determined with clinical data from doctors. coronavirus. «What can give us a suspicion, for example, of omicron It is from patients with a travel history that we have received in recent weeks, ”says Cárdenas.

The two experts agree that, worldwide, the variant predominant is the delta and that, in Ecuador, between 80% and 90% of those infected with coronavirus present it. Like omicron, the delta transmission It is high, so the scientists point out that, with or without the African variant, protection measures, despite vaccination, must continue.

Is there benefit in knowing which variant I have?

Determining what kind of variant has a patient benefits epidemiological analysis. However, in patients the treatment and symptoms, regardless of the variants, is the same.

Fewer PCR tests in the population

One of the reasons why the transmission of the virus increases is the unvaccinated population. In Ecuador, at least 500 thousand people do not consider getting vaccinated.

On the other hand, in the vaccinated population, when there are infections, the symptoms are mild, which is why they are mistaken for a common cold and a PCR test is not done. “And the point is that people have spent so much on the PCR and the economic situation is not good, that people are inhibited from taking the test. That is why the call is for the Government to put free PCR points, so that we can advance in the monitoring of new variants«, Adds Espinoza.

For his part, Cárdenas says that when in doubt and, in case of not being able to access a PCR, antigen testing is a good option. (AVV)


In Africa, omicron was discovered because a PCR recognized only two of the three genes that this test normally recognizes.


A PCR test costs $ 45, in Ecuador.

“With the clinical data (patient symptoms) that doctors have, it is not possible to suspect that a patient has this or that variant, even if it is a very, very serious patient”, Paúl Cárdenas, PhD in genomic medicine and researcher at USFQ.

“The symptoms of Omicron are mild in cases of vaccinated people (…) so it is very difficult to determine by symptoms the types of variants”


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