New method may be used to detect Omicron

RAMATHIBODI Hospital’s Centre for Medical Genomics may soon opt for a new method to detect the recently discovered new variant of Covid-19 dubbed “Omicron”.

Though this strain is still detectable via antigen tests (ATK) and the RT-PCR method, many laboratories have said that the “S” may slip notice in PCR tests due to mutation.

On Saturday, the Centre for Medical Genomics coordinated with Ramathibodi Hospitals’ Virology Laboratory to monitor S dropout samples.

If these samples are found, then this genotype will be tested with 40 tracers using the MassARRAY technology, which can provide accurate multiplexed analysis of hundreds of clinically relevant mutations in a single workflow.

This test can be completed within 24 to 48 hours and is more cost-effective than genome decoding.

The centre is also hoping to have a test kit for the Omicron strain to be ready in the next couple of weeks.

The B.1.1.529 strain, named Omicron by the World Health Organisation (WHO), is considered a variant of concern (VOC) because it spreads very rapidly.

South Africa reported the discovery of Omicron on Nov 24 after it was detected in samples collected from a patient on Nov 9.

WHO designated it a variant of concern on Nov 26 due to its rapid human-to-human transmission.

This variant has also been detected in Israel, Malawi, Botswana, Belgium and Hong Kong.

Though countries scrambled to ban flights, the WHO warned against imposing travel restrictions due to Omicron.

The original Covid-19 virus has reportedly mutated more than 60 times, with many mutations like Alpha, Beta, Delta, Gamma, named variants of concern or variants of interest by the WHO. — The Nation/ANN

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