A new SARS-CoV-2 Omicron variant, lineage B.1.1.529 was first detected in Botswanan on November 11, 2021, and South Africa on November 14, 2021. It is noted that Omicron has over 30 mutations, several of which (eg 69–70del, T95I, G142D/143–145del, K417N, T478K, N501Y, N655Y, N679K, and P681H) overlap with those in the alpha, beta, gamma or delta variants. Since this new variant has many mutations in a portion of the genome that can potentially increase infectivity and transmissibility, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the U.S. government have now characterized Omicron variants as a Variant of Concern (VOC).
Although Omicron is likely to be highly transmissible, it is not yet clear whether it has greater transmissibility than delta, although preliminary indications suggest that it is spreading rapidly against a backdrop of ongoing delta-variant transmission and high levels of natural immunity to the delta variant. The Covid-19 cases in the Gauteng province of South Africa show that the early doubling time in the fourth wave of Omicron variants is higher than that of the previous three waves.
Early epidemiological evidence suggests that cases are rising and that PCR tests with S-gene target failure are also rising. It is noted that the “S-gene target failure does not mean that Omicron is present” said Dr. Koirala. However, it may be a very useful screening tool that allows labs to prioritize those specimens for sequencing and confirmation for Omicron variants.
Solaris Diagnostics current Covid-19 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test will be able to detect all the Variants of Concern including the Omicron variant and will test positive for current Covid-19 tests.
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