NEW DELHI: Researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Delhi have developed an RT-PCR based assay for the specific detection of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 within 90 minutes, according to officials.
Currently, the identification or screening for Omicron is done worldwide using next-generation sequencing-based methods which require over three days.
The institute has filed an Indian patent application for the rapid screening assay developed by its Kusuma School of Biological Sciences and is in process of initiating talks with potential industry partners.
"The assay is based on detecting specific mutations which are present in the Omicron variant and absent in other currently circulating variants of SARS-CoV-2.
Primer sets targeting these unique mutations in the S gene were designed for the specific amplification of either the Omicron variant or other currently circulating variants of SARS-CoV-2 and tested using real time PCR," a senior IIT Delhi official said.
"Using synthetic DNA fragments, the assays were optimised to distinguish the wild-type from the Omicron variant in a dynamic range. Currently, the identification or screening for Omicron is done worldwide using next-generation sequencing based methods, which require over 3 days. By using this RT-PCR based assay, it will be possible to test for the presence of the Omicron variant within 90 minutes," the official added.
IIT Delhi was the first academic institute in India to have obtained ICMR approval for a real-time PCR-based diagnostic assay.
ALSO READ | First Omicron death in UK, variant spreading rapidly
The institute developed a method to detect COVID-19 which significantly reduced the cost of testing, making it affordable for a large population in the country.
Following approval from the ICMR, the kit was successfully launched in the market.
The Omicron variant was first detected in India in Bengaluru with two people testing positive for it.
Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Chandigarh reported their first Omicron case on Sunday, while Maharashtra and Karnataka each recorded one more case of the COVID-19 variant, taking the tally in the country to 38.
Cases of Omicron, which is categorised as a "variant of concern" by the World Health Organisation, have been detected in about 60 countries.