Thermo Fisher Scientific has confirmed that its RT-PCR test kits can detect the Omicron variant of the coronavirus in Covid-19 samples. The test, which follows the primer-probe detection principle, is not impacted by the B.1.1.529 or Omicron variant that has emerged as a global concern following its detection in southern Africa.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has since classified the variant, which has over 30 mutations in its spike protein, as a ‘variant of concern’. The emergence of the variant has led to countries renewing restrictions and research to examine its impact on the efficacy of vaccines and tests.
Thermo Fisher Scientific’s Covid-19 assays detect infections by identifying three gene targets from the virus’ orf1a/b, S, and N regions. While the S gene target is impacted by Omicron variant mutations, the orf1a/b and N gene targets have been determined to not suffer any impact.
“Thermo Fisher is committed to supporting the world’s pandemic response by developing innovative, adaptive and resilient testing solutions,” said Thermo Fisher Scientific Managing Director (India and South Asia) Amit Chopra.
“Our TaqPath Assays are developed with additional built-in checks to ensure that clinicians, researchers and public health officials have access to effective tools to accurately detect mutations as the virus continues to evolve.”
The WHO has also said Thermo Fisher Scientific’s RT-PCR kits, widely used across the world, can detect the variant.
Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology Scientist Vinod Scaria told The Indian Express that the test kit’s ability to detect the virus variant depended on the primers (chemicals that pick up the identifiers) being used.
The Omicron variant includes the 69-70del mutation of the S gene, first identified as a mutation in the Alpha variant. This mutation leads to a dropout of the S-gene target in results from the TaqPath test, indicating a possible Omicron infection.
However, a gene sequencing must be done to confirm the presence of the Omicron variant. In India, about 2-5% of infected samples are sent for genome sequencing as the process is slow, complicated, and expensive.