Saturday, December 9, 2023

5 days to ‘confirm’ Omicron: NewsX draws up must do list

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As Delhi witnesses a sharp rise in Omicron cases, Delhi Health Minister Satyendra Jain on Thursday said that 46% of the total Covid-19 cases are of the Omicron variant as per the latest genome sequencing report. The statement is particularly alarming as the positivity rate of infections is increasing with each passing day. This also leads to the Omicron data issue, since it is takes 3-5 day cycle to confirm a Omicron positive case as all the Covid-19 positive cases are sent to Pune. Even though there are gene test labs available in Delhi, they are not being used.

Hence, this is leading to a bizarre situation wherein a patients gets symptoms on day 1, gets RT-PCR test results on day 2, the tests are then sent to Pune on day 3 and the presence of the Omicron variant is confirmed on day 5/6. By the time it is confirmed that a patient is Omicron positive, he or she almost recovers from the virus. Sending the samples to Pune add needless courier time, hence leading to delay in getting the results.

This demands the need to switch to a S Gene RT-PCR Test, which will help detect Omicron cases much faster. Simplifying S Gene sequencing, S Gene is not present in the Omicron variant. S Gene drops because of mutation in variant. Hence, the missing S Gene marker can be used to identify the variant. At present, India has been focusing on the E, N and RD RP Genes. RT PCR confirms Covid and the variant is then identified via genome sequencing. Centre has recommended dual RT-PCR to test S Gene drop.

The S Gene drop kits can be used for early detection. The dropout samples of S Gene can be sent on priority basis for genome sequencing. The switch to S Gene RT PCR test will help detect omicron cases much faster. It will save resources as S Dropout tests can be sent for sequencing immediately. Direct tests will save time consumed in dual RT PCR testing and suspected Omicron cases can be isolated at the earliest.

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