COVID-19 Omicron variants have exploded with multiple variants circulating all jockeying for dominance. Some refer to it as the “alphabet soup” of Omicron. How are these variants identified and tracked over time though is a question many of you have asked. In this video we dive into this process!
Testing for new variants is a process that requires genetic sequencing, also known as genome sequencing. This is when the genetic material, RNA in the case of SARS-CoV-2, is replicated in a lab thousands of times and those replicated strands are pieced together to identify the entirety of the virus’s genetic code.
The CDC utilizes an approach that has a whole slew of labs and institutions all contributing to the overall sequencing data nationally. They have a program called the NS3 where public laboratories send COVID positive PCR samples for sequencing. They also use universities, commercial laboratories, and support local, regionally, and territorial labs to increase their sequencing data.
There is a lot of variability though in how many COVID-19 positive tests are sent for sequencing depending on local and regionally protocols. For instance, Washington and California sequenced around 10% last month. The goal is for a diverse sample set that can then be applied to the overall population. Unfortunately, only PCR tests can be sequenced rather than home antigen tests. There isn’t a way for someone to know what variant they have been infected with.
Globally, countries send their sequencing data to GISAID to track what variants are circulating around the globe.
New Omicron Variant XBB.1.5 just EXPLODED – Mutations, Prevention, Severity, Home Testing, Treatment https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8SxuA…
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