New COVID-19 variant B.1.1.529 – Omicron                                          

The B.1.1.529 variant was first reported to WHO from South Africa on November 24, 2021. The first known confirmed B.1.1.529 infection was from a specimen collected on November 9, 2021. The number of cases of this variant appears to be increasing in almost all provinces in South Africa. Current SARS-CoV-2 PCR diagnostics continue to detect this variant. Several labs have indicated that for one widely used PCR test, one of the three target genes is not detected (called S gene dropout or S gene target failure) and this test can therefore be used as marker for this variant, pending sequencing confirmation.

Signs and symptoms include respiratory symptoms and include fever, cough and shortness of breath. In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome and sometimes death. There is rapid spread of infection of new variant Omicron but with unusual symptoms like intense fatigue, and no loss of smell or taste that has a common indicator of COVID-19 patients treated before. Standard recommendations to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The molecular biology diagnostic laboratory, Pathology Department, Bahria International Hospital, Lahore using WHO approved kits which are capable of detecting this new variant B.1.1.529, WHO named Omicron (15th letter of Greek alphabetic).

Dr. Syed Zahid Bukhari Consultant Microbiologist & Infection Prevention & Control Bahria International Hospital, Lahore