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At Circular1 Health the safety of our customers is our primary concern. We continually monitor the performance of our test methods (LAMP, PCR and Sequencing). Over the last few days a new variant of concern (VOC), called ‘Omicron’ (B.1.1.529) has been detected globally.     

Our SARS-CoV-2 tests (LAMP and PCR) are unaffected by these mutations and are still able to detect positive samples containing the Omicron variant. 

The first samples identified of the new Omicron variant in South Africa were done so by customers running the same sequencing platform as we do in our laboratories (Ion Torrent Instruments and the AmpliSeq SARS-CoV-2 Insight panel from ThermoFisher). Published sequence data for the variant to date shows it has a large number of mutations in the spike protein (this protein recognises host cells and is the main target of the body’s immune response).     

At Circular1 Health for resilience in our testing services, we utilise 2 types of PCR kits, both of which detect multiple gene targets for SARS-CoV-2 (both detect the N gene, plus either the orf 1 or E genes depending on which PCR kit is used). Similarly, our LAMP detects N and E genes for SARS-CoV-2. Therefore, the sensitivity of all our tests are unaffected, i.e. they are able to detect positive samples containing the Omicron variant.     

Our PCR does not use an S gene target, due to the high mutation rate and therefore we can’t currently look at S gene dropout or target failure as a marker for this variant. However, regardless, positive cases believed to be the new variant identified using the S gene dropout approach must be confirmed by sequencing. The sequence technology we offer is a fast track rapid 24 hour turnaround or 72 hr high throughput. We can use this for confirmation of Omicrion positive cases.     

Analysis of the mutations in the nucleocapsid (N gene) of B.1.1.529 viruses suggests that rapid antigen tests should also be unaffected, however verification of this is still underway.     

Preliminary evidence suggests an increased risk of reinfection with this variant, as compared to other VOCs (https://www.who.int/news/item/28-11-2021-update-on-omicron)

If you’re interested in learning more about our UKAS accredited testing services and how we can help keep your business operational and safe, please contact us using [email protected] for business enquiries.