Test that can detect Omicron variant now available in market

Hyderabad: RT-PCR test is on everybody’s mind especially under the current circumstances of a COVID-19 third wave in the country. Taking this a step ahead, an updated technology analyzer is now available in the market which could potentially detect the Omicron variant beyond just the basic positive/negative confirmation of the virus.

The ‘S-gene’ test involves the same RT-PCR process where a person’s nasal and throat swab samples are collected and put through the reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction process. But this new ‘S-gene’ process involves an added layer of investigation to ascertain whether the person has Omicron or not.

Even though the test is available only in niche private labs right now, people involved with diagnostics assert that this new test is going to be the norm in the coming days.

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“The ‘S-gene’ RT-PCR test looks for three genes spike (S), nucleocapsid, or inner area (N2), and Open Reading Frame (ORF) relating to parts of the virus. If the spike is detected, then it is unlikely to be Omicron. But, if the spike is not detected in the test, the sample could be Omicron. The term used here is ‘S drop out’ for the non-detection,” Varma, a subject matter expert from HealthAnlytx told Siasat.com

Varma also said that the S-gene test right now available in the market is not totally definitive, but is a comparative analysis that eliminates the possibility of other strains thereby finalizing it to be the Omicron variant. Previously, this test was only available in Government-run labs.

There is a growing demand in public for the new test because of the prevalence of different strains of the virus. The Government has not yet announced any cap on the price for the test. The S-gene test right now is only available at Tenet Diagnostics in Hyderabad and it costs Rs 1200. We also found out that many labs in the city are openly flouting the capped price of the regular RT-PCR which stands at Rs 500 for the test and Rs 750 if it’s a home pick up and is overcharging customers. The government has to wake up and act so that the general public doesn’t suffer from exorbitant, varying prices of the new S-gene test.

Varma said that even though the process is almost the same as the regular RT-PCR, diagnostic labs are hyping up the additional layer of testing to make more profits.

We tried to contact the Telangana Director of Public Health for comment but despite repeated attempts, he didn’t respond.

India reported 1,41,986 new COVID-19 cases on saturday, taking the daily positivity rate in the country to 9.28 percent, said the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. With this, the country’s COVID-19 case tally has gone up to 3,53,68,372.

According to Health Ministry, the country has so far reported 3,071 cases of Omicron of which 1,203 have been recovered.

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