In the past days, researchers have identified a new SARS-CoV-2 variant with a concerningly high number of mutations in the spike protein. The variant was first identified in Botswana in November 2021, is spreading rapidly across South Africa and has been identified in travellers to Hong Kong.
The variant is especially concerning as it contains more than 30 mutations to the spike protein — the SARS-CoV-2 protein that recognises host cells and is the main target of the body’s natural or vaccine induced immune responses. Similar mutations have been found in variants such as Delta and Alpha and have been linked to heightened infection rates and potential resistance to infection-blocking antibodies . However, the combination of these mutations seems to be unique to this variant and no related variants have so far been identified .
It is therefore critical to quickly identify clusters to limit spread of this concerning variant. Eurofins, through Gold Standard Diagnostics Europe, provides the toolset to rapidly identify the variant Omicron. GSD NovaType Select is a set of RT-PCR assays to specifically detect mutations in the genome of SARS-CoV-2 in around 1 hour, much faster than genome sequencing methods.
GSD NovaType Select P681H can differentiate variant Omicron from the currently dominant Delta variant and can be used as a large scale screening test for all PCR positive samples. For further confirmation, all samples positive for the mutation P681H should be tested using GSD NovaType Select T478K and K417N to further differentiate B.1.1.529 from other circulating SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern .
Gilles Martin, Eurofins CEO said: “We continue to innovate to meet the ongoing challenges arising from the pandemic. I am very pleased with the speed at which we have brought to market a new test for the detection of this variant. We have maintained significant testing capacity across our markets, which together with innovations such as this, positions us very well to help deliver highly accurate, variant-detecting COVID tests at significant scale, to help navigate the pandemic.”
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 “Heavily mutated coronavirus variant puts scientists on alert”, article from Nature 25/11/2021 available at https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-021-03552-w
 Urgent briefing on latest developments around the Covid-19 vaccination programme by South African Minister of Health and Deputy Minister of Health, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vh4XMueP1zQ&t=709s
 WHO Tracking SARS-CoV-2 variants https://www.who.int/en/activities/tracking-SARS-CoV-2-variants/