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Are present RT-PCR checks sufficient to detect Omicron variant?

New Delhi: Omicron, the newly-detected Covid variant which has stoked fears of vaccine resistance, is probably the most mutated model of the virus discovered to this point.

Well being specialists in India on Monday claimed that the at the moment obtainable diagnostics measures could not make correct detection of the Omicron Covid variant.

Within the final two years of the Covid-19 pandemic, the SARS-CoV-2 virus has mutated, leading to genetic variation within the inhabitants of circulating viral strains. Molecular, antigen and serology checks — all get affected by viral mutations as a result of inherent design variations of every take a look at.

The World Well being Group had final week labeled the newest variant — B.1.1.529 of SARS-CoV-2 virus — as Omicron, a ‘Variant of Concern’ (VOC), which implies it may very well be extra contagious, extra virulent or extra expert at evading public well being measures, vaccines and therapeutics.

In line with the worldwide well being physique, the Omicron variant falls below the S gene. The S gene encodes the spike glycoprotein of SARS-CoV-2, the virus inflicting Covid-19, and can be focused to particularly detect the presence of SARS-CoV-2.

“Many of the present ICMR authorized RT-PCR kits being utilized in India goal the E, Rd Rp and N genes. The mutations within the newest variant have occurred within the S gene. The widespread RT-PCR kits getting used will have the ability to establish constructive or destructive, however will be unable to establish if the constructive result’s as a result of mutation within the S gene,” Arjun Dang, CEO, Dr Dangs Lab, advised IANS.

“As per the information, RT-PCR kits for S gene, particularly the Taqpath package from Thermofisher, will have the ability to display screen the brand new variant,” stated Veena Menon, Advisor, Medical Virology, Amrita Hospital.

Researchers have noticed B.1.1.529 in genome-sequencing knowledge from Botswana. The variant stood out as a result of it comprises greater than 30 adjustments to the spike protein — the SARS-CoV-2 protein that recognises host cells and is the principle goal of the physique’s immune responses.

Among the many massive variety of mutations, some are regarding. Preliminary proof suggests an elevated danger of reinfection with this variant, as in comparison with different VOCs, the WHO stated.

In the meantime, the worldwide well being physique said that present SARS-CoV-2 PCR diagnostics proceed to detect the brand new variant.

“A number of labs have indicated that for one broadly used PCR take a look at, one of many three goal genes will not be detected (known as S gene dropout or S gene goal failure), and this take a look at can due to this fact be used as a marker for this variant, pending sequencing affirmation,” the WHO assertion stated.

Gene dropout is a state of affairs whereby if a mutation happens within the a part of the virus’ genome assessed by a PCR take a look at, the pattern could end in gene “dropout”.

“Utilizing this strategy, this variant has been detected at sooner charges than earlier surges within the an infection, suggesting that this variant could have a progress benefit,” it added.

“However mutations within the S gene are extra widespread, which impacts not solely virus infectivity, but in addition detection. It was additionally seen within the case of Alpha and Beta variants. The brand new variant has a mutation/deletion just like the Alpha variant and therefore S gene drop out take a look at, which is a PCR methodology, can be utilized as an preliminary screening take a look at,” Menon stated.

The Thermo Fisher Scientific on Monday introduced that its Covid-19 diagnostic take a look at — TaqPath Covid-19 assays, additionally authorized by the US FDA — can precisely detect Omicron.

In an announcement, the corporate stated: “TaqPath Covid-19 assays can report correct outcomes even within the case the place one of many gene targets is impacted by a mutation.”

Moreover, “it will also be used as a proxy for the [Omicron] variant”, in response to Mark Stevenson, Chief Working Officer at Thermo Fisher Scientific.

First detected in Botswana and South Africa, Omicron has since unfold to numerous nations in Europe, together with Belgium, the Netherlands, France and the UK, in Australia and Canada, amongst others.

What do you think?

Written by VK Team

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