News Release

Letter: Track Omicron’s spread with molecular data

**COVID Immediate Release**

Reports and Proceedings

American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)

Rapid polymerase chain reaction test results could improve global estimates of the prevalence of Omicron, the newly emerged variant of SARS-CoV-2, say Lesley Scott and colleagues in a Letter. Given that the Omicron variant of concern (VOC) exhibits a particular amino acid deletion in its spike gene – which yields a distinct absent S-gene (S-) – the frequency of Sresults can be used to provide a rapid proxy for the frequency of Omicron cases, they say. The authors argue that countries should prioritize the release of daily counts of cases, hospitalizations, and deaths disaggregated by S-gene data – either S-, S+, or unknown. This could help to understand the fraction of infections caused by Omicron versus Delta, which, unlike Omicron, is designated Son PCR tests. It could also help inform the severity of Omicron cases, as measured by mortality and hospitalization. In low-resource settings, S-gene data will help reveal the risk Omicron poses to pandemic control, the authors add. Finally, S-gene data shared in real time could help to evaluate the degree of immune protection conferred by natural- and vaccine-elicited immunity in Omicron cases. The authors discuss ways to control for preferential sequencing of samples with an S- result, as global scientists prepare to contribute sample data. “To evaluate risk and guide policy, there is an urgent need to incentivize the quick sharing of well-annotated genomic and S-gene-stratified surveillance data globally,” they conclude.  

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