ICMR designs kit to detect new variant Omicron in 2 hours

Internal validation has shown that the tests are 100 per cent accurate


Last Updated on December 13, 2021 by The Health Master

Amid rising cases of the new variant Omicron, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) in Dibrugarh, Assam, has designed a testing kit that will be able to detect the virus in two hours’ time.

The development has come at a time when the Omicron variant is making its presence felt in various states, with at least 33 cases having been detected in the country so far.

Till now, it has been a real concern for the authorities to quickly detect the variant. It used to take three to four days to detect the Omicron variant with the help of the kits currently available on the market.

A team of scientists from the Regional Medical Research Centre (RMRC ) for the Northeast region of ICMR has developed a testing kit that enables us to detect the Omicron variant in real time.

The team led by scientist Dr. Biswajyoti Borkakoty has prepared a kit that has the ability to detect the Omicron variant in 2 hours from a given sample.

ICMR-RMRC, Dibrugarh, has designed and developed a hydrolysis probe-based real-time RT-PCR assay for detection of the new Omicron variant (B.1.1.529) SARS-CoV-2 that can detect the new variant within 2 hours.

This is important because, as of now, a minimum of 36 hours is required for targeted sequencing and 4 to 5 days for whole-genome sequencing to detect the variant, ” said Dr. Borkakoty on Saturday.

The kit developed by ICMR-RMRC Dibrugarh is now being produced on a bulk basis by a 100 per cent Indian company, GCC Biotech, on a public-private partnership (PPP) model.

“The kit has been tested against specific synthetic gene fragments of the Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2 within two different highly specific unique regions of the spike protein and also reference wild-type control synthetic gene fragments.

Internal validation has shown that the tests are 100 per cent accurate,” Dr. Borkakoty said.

It may be mentioned that in July 2020, a team of scientists led by Dr. Borkakoty successfully managed to isolate the virus (SARS-CoV-2) and, by doing so, ICMR-RMRC Dibrugarh became the third government laboratory in the country to achieve the feat.

States including Delhi, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Karnataka, and Gujarat have reported cases of the new variant, taking the total number of Omicron cases in the country to 33.

On November 26, the WHO named the new variant B.1.1.529, which has been detected in South Africa, as ‘Omicron’.

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