Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) variants are characterized by differences in transmissibility and response to therapeutics. Therefore, discriminating among them is vital for surveillance, infection prevention, and patient care. While whole-genome sequencing (WGS) is the “gold standard” for variant identification, molecular variant panels have become increasingly available. Most, however, are based on limited targets and have not undergone comprehensive evaluation. We assessed the diagnostic performance of the highly multiplexed Agena MassARRAY SARSCoV-2 Variant Panel v3 to identify variants in a diverse set of 391 SARS-CoV-2 clinical RNA specimens collected across our health systems in New York City, USA and Bogotá, Colombia (September 2, 2020 to March 2, 2022). We demonstrated almost perfect levels of interrater agreement between this assay and WGS for 9 of 11 variant calls (k $ 0.856) and 25 of 30 targets (k $ 0.820) tested on the panel. The assay had a high diagnostic sensitivity ($93.67%) for contemporary variants (e.g., Iota, Alpha, Delta, and Omicron [BA.1 sublineage]) and a high diagnostic specificity for all 11 variants ($96.15%) and all 30 targets ($94.34%) tested. Moreover, we highlighted distinct target patterns that could be utilized to identify variants not yet defined on the panel, including the Omicron BA.2 and other sublineages. These findings exemplified the power of highly multiplexed diagnostic panels to accurately call variants and the potential for target result signatures to elucidate new ones.

Original languageEnglish
JournalMicrobiology spectrum
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2022


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