Explained: Can an RT-PCR test detect Omicron Variant of Covid-19

RT-PCR test can only confirm if there is an infection or not. They are not made to inspect which particular variant has infected the person.

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The Omicron variant of SARS-CoV2 is a big threat to human kind. On Sunday, World Health Organization estimated the global risk and it is said to be “very high”. Data also shown that the Omicron have higher chances of portability and also has the ability to shake off the immune system produced through the infections before or through vaccinations.

The only way to prevent this variant is to stop the spread as much as possible. WHO said the only positive thing about this variant is it can be detected in some RT-PCR tests that is being used across the world, unlike other variants that can be only detected after Genetic Sequencing test. It will help in speeding up the detection and helping in control the spread.

This is not straightforward; most RT-PCR tests in India might not be able to distinguish between Omicron and other variants.

RT-PCR test can only confirm if there is an infection or not. They are not made to inspect which particular variant has infected the person. To made that surety, a Genome Sequencing needs to be done.

Genome Sequencing is a time taking and costly process so all the samples can’t be sent there. About 2 to 5 per cent of positive samples go for gene analysis.
RT-PCR tests look for the presence of some specific testimony in the genetic material of the virus in the human body and some of the tests of RT-PCR look for an testimony in the coronavirus spike protein, the protruded area that allows the virus to enter the human body. If there are mutations in the spike protein, with the omicron variant, then there is a possibility that such tests, looking for testimonies in this region, would not recognize the mutation as the testimony it is looking for and would give positive result.

Nonetheless, such a result can be seen as a screening mechanism for the Omicron variant, especially since the prevalence of the Alpha variant in the Indian population has gone down significantly. Such screening at the diagnostic test stage can be vital in identifying and isolating the potential infections with the Omicron variant.

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