Hot topics | Coronavirus pandemic

In domestic COVID-19 cases, the United States steps up search for Omicron variant in the US

In domestic COVID-19 cases, the United States steps up search for Omicron variant in the US

The head of the association of state-run public health laboratories told Reuters on Monday that the United States is expanding its COVID-19 surveillance to distinguish domestic cases of the Omicron variant from the still-dominant Delta.

The new variant, originally discovered in southern Africa last week, has since been detected in ten different nations. US officials claim it is only a matter of time before it occurs in the country.

Although much remains unknown, Omicron has raised a new alarm owing to a growing number of mutations that suggest it may reduce vaccination protection. Countries worldwide are eager to learn the prevalence of the new coronavirus at their borders.

"I'm sure we'll see it," said Scott Becker, head executive of the Association of Public Health Laboratories (APHL). "My assumption is we're going to see it in the next couple of days," he added.

Members of the group formed up of state and city public health laboratories met with White House officials on Friday for a talk on the variant and the United States' efforts to identify it, Becker noted. A formal meeting with the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is set for later on Monday, according to Becker.

"I can assure you that our public health officials here are in close contact daily and in ongoing calls with all state health officials and public health partners," White House press secretary Jen Psaki said reporters.

According to Becker, one of the first steps will be to increase the use of a ThermoFisher Inc COVID-19 molecular test to assist identify potential cases.

Other nations, including Belgium and Israel, have claimed that the ThermoFisher test is being used to detect a genetic mutation within the S gene, which can distinguish the Omicron variant from Delta, which currently accounts for more than 99.8% of coronavirus cases.

Detecting COVID-19 cases when the S-gene appears to drop off alerts lab officials that such samples should undergo additional sequencing to verify the presence of Omicron.

"It gives us a signal, and those specimens that have it will immediately be available for sequencing," Becker said.

56 of the 68 public health laboratories doing sequencing in the United States have conducted a test run with the ThermoFisher system, and 35 are already using it.

"I'm sure the rest of the 21 will be using it as of today," Becker added.

Becker said that the United States now runs sequences on 93,000 COVID-19 tests per week, up significantly from 3,000 a week at the beginning of 2021. Public health laboratories operate between 15,000 and 20,000 of those per week, according to Becker.

Our Standards:

You may also like: