In silico used to validate Omicron variant detection method!
The Joint Research Centre (JRC) has developed a new method to detect the Omicron variant of COVID-19, which differs in its nucleic acid sequence from previous COVID-19 variants. The significant changes in its sequence have caused some fear as to whether existing tests would be able to detect Omicron.
Fortunately, the JRC quickly identified variant-specific sequences and developed primers that can be used in a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test. These primers have been designed, validated and confirmed to successfully detect Omicron in silico.
The next steps for this method are to rapidly assess it in vivo on clinical samples and to then hopefully implement it as the Omicron variant spreads throughout Europe. As the method was developed by the JRC, it has already been directly shared with EU policymakers. This innovation is thus positive on a multitude of levels: it will be crucial to detect Omicron, particularly as cases are predicted to rise with the winter holidays and Omicron accounts a larger portion of COVID-19 cases, and it also provides a key example to policymakers of the speed and efficiency with which in silico methods can function.