Researchers at IIT Delhi have developed an RT-PCR-based assay for the specific detection of the Omicron mutant (B.1.1.529.1) of China-origin coronavirus within 90 min. Sharing this information through a statement, the institute said that the assay is based on detecting specific mutations, which are present in the Omicron variant and absent in other currently circulating variants of the pathogen.
The primer sets targeting these unique mutations in the S gene were designed for the specific amplification of either the Omicron variant or other currently circulating variants of Sars-CoV-2 and tested using real-time PCR. Using synthetic DNA fragments, the assays were optimised to distinguish the wild-type from the Omicron variant in a dynamic range from 107 to less than 100 copies per reaction.
Currently, the identification or screening for omicron is done worldwide using next-generation sequencing-based methods, which require over three days. “By using this RT-PCR based assay, it will be possible to test for the presence of the Omicron variant within 90 min,” the statement said.
This can be used as a rapid screening assay for the identification and isolation of individuals with the Omicron mutant. IIT Delhi has filed an Indian patent application for the same and is in the process of initiating talks with potential industry partners.
IIT Delhi had earlier obtained ICMR approval (the first academic institute in India to do so) for an RT-PCR kit for the diagnosis of Covid, which was successfully launched in the market.
So far, India has reported 40 cases of infectious Omicron. Today, Maharashtra reported two more cases of the Omicron mutant of SARS-CoV-2. With these two cases, one from Latur and the other from Pune, the tally of patients infected with the newly discovered variant of the coronavirus rose to 20 in the state.
Omicron has an unusually large number of mutations, several of which are novel and a significant number of which affect the spike protein targeted by most Covid-19 vaccines at the time of discovery of the mutant. This extent of variation has led to concerns regarding its transmissibility, immune system evasion, and vaccine resistance. As a result, the variant was quickly designated as being “of concern”, and travel restrictions were introduced by several countries in an attempt to slow its international spread. However, the variant has spread to over 70 countries as of 13 December 2021.