Roche rapidly develops new PCR test kits for Omicron variant

SWITZERLAND – Roche Holding, a Swiss pharmaceutical company, has developed PCR tests that can detect the omicron variant of Covid-19, which will aid countries in monitoring the spread of the new strain.

On December 1, Roche acquired Berlin-based TIB Molbiol in order to expand its PCR-test portfolio in order to combat new infectious diseases.

The Swiss pharmaceutical company completed its acquisition of TIB Molbiol for an undisclosed sum.

Within weeks of the first reported cases of Covid, the Berlin-based company developed a PCR test for research purposes only.

The company also stated that it tested all of its existing Covid diagnostics and discovered that all of them can detect the disease when a patient has the omicron variant.

The omicron variant of Covid-19, discovered in South Africa, has now been found in countries ranging from the United States to South Korea.

Governments around the world are scouring databases for recent COVID-19 infections, screening travelers, and decoding the viral genomes of the new variant to determine how far it has spread.

The World Health Organization (WHO) classified Omicron as a SARS-CoV-2 “variant of concern” last week, saying it could spread faster than other forms.

We are able to offer a test that can specifically identify the novel B.1.1.529 Omicron SARS-CoV-2 variant to help better understand its spread and behaviour,” Thomas Schinecker, head of Roche Diagnostics, said in a statement.

While the WHO claims that widely available tests can detect any variant, most PCR tests cannot distinguish between Omicron and Delta, the virus’s dominant and most infectious variants.

Until now, the world body has only recommended the TaqPath test developed by Thermo Fisher of the United States as a proxy.

The new Roche and TIB Molbiol testing kits, designed solely for research purposes, can distinguish between unique mutations in Omicron and other SARS-CoV-2 variants, according to Roche.

As a result, they can assist researchers in detecting Omicron and studying its spread in comparison to other variants.

They could also be used to track the potential impact of therapeutics, vaccines, and public health interventions on the spread of variants, according to Roche.

In other related news, Eurofins Technologies has unveiled its multiplex RT-PCR assay, to detect the Omicron variant of concern.

The test can qualitatively identify SARS-CoV-2 genomic RNA and the spike (S) mutation concurrently.

This same test detects the Omicron variant even before the samples are fully sequenced and provides results in one hour.

Further to that, according to Westport News, the US government has announced plans to fully reimburse at-home Covid tests for several Americans with private health insurance.

Individuals who do not have private insurance will be able to take free tests at over 20,000 government-supported testing centers across the country.

However, it is still unclear when the new policy will go into effect, with guidance expected on January 15, next year.

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