Amid rising cases of the new COVID-19 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 being detected in the country so far. Till now it was a real concern for the authorities to quickly detect the variant. It used to take three to four days time to detect the Omicron variant with the help of the kits currently available in the market.
A team of scientists of Regional Medical Research Centre (RMRC ) for the Northeast region, ICMR has developed a testing kit that enables to detect the Omicron variant of COVID-19 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 time 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 (COVID-19) 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 made in India, a Kolkata-based company, GCC biotech on a public-private partnership (PPP) model. “The kit has been tested against specific synthetic gene fragments of 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 had successfully managed to isolate the COVID-19 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 COVID-19 variant with the total number of Omicron cases in the country going up to 33.
On November 26, the WHO named the new COVID-19 variant B.1.1.529, which has been detected in South Africa, as ‘Omicron.’