Live updates: follow the latest news on Covid-19 variant Omicron
India’s state-run top medical research body has designed a diagnostic kit for the “real-time” detection of Omicron variant amid a surge of infections in the country.
Authorities are currently using RT-PCR swab tests that take 24 to 36 hours to confirm Covid-19 infection. It takes another four days to conduct genome sequencing for the detection of the Omicron infection.
India has detected more than 200 cases of Omicron variant since confirming its first case on December 2.
Most of the positive cases had travel history but a significant number had contracted the virus locally, indicating the highly infectious strain was present in the local community.
Medical experts say the spread of Omicron could further increase because of the slow pace of detection of the mutant virus that can only be conducted at specialised labs.
“We have designed and developed a hydrolysis probe-based real-time rRT-PCR assay for detection of the new Omicron variant within two hours,” ICMR said.
The kit will detect the coronavirus and specifically distinguish the Omicron variant based on the use of fluorescent reporter and quencher dyes.
The research body said it was important to develop a testing kit that could provide quick results and help contain the spread of the virus among local communities.
“There is a risk over its high transmission rate that it could infect a larger population. Therefore, for early diagnosis of the Omicron variant, there is a substantive need to have a dedicated rRT-PCR assay that can detect the Omicron variant,” the research body said.
The body is trying to tie up with private companies for commercial manufacturing of the newly developed kit.
“There is a need for the detection of Omicron to prevent the spread (though) the clinical feature is mild but there is a need for tests,” Dr Samiran Panda, an ICMR scientist, told The National.