A US company has said its Covid-19 diagnostic tests can accurately detect omicron, the new coronavirus variant, that has prompted several countries to impose travel bans and shut their borders.
Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc said in a statement on Monday its TaqPath Covid-19 assays can report accurate results even in the case where one of the gene targets is impacted by a mutation.
“This assay can be used not only to successfully detect Covid-19 but… it can also be used as a proxy for the variant,” Mark Stevenson, chief operating officer at Thermo Fisher Scientific, said in an interview, according to Reuters.
This is the only Covid-19 test that is both authorised by the US Food and Drug Administration and can be used to indicate if a case is caused by the omicron variant, Stevenson said.
Stevenson said test samples must still be sent to a lab for sequencing to confirm that the case was caused by omicron and not another variant with similar features, such as alpha.
He added that Thermo is prepared to increase its production of tests to meet demand from countries in Africa and elsewhere as they work to track the spread of the new variant.
Only Thermo Fisher has so far confirmed that its test can be used to help identify the omicron variant. Other Covid-19 tests, including from Roche Holding AG and Abbott Laboratories, can also be used to diagnose positive cases caused by the variant.
The World Health Organization (WHO) classified the omicron variant, which was first detected in southern Africa, as a SARS-CoV-2 “variant of concern” last week and said it may spread more quickly than other forms.
Omicron has now been confirmed in Australia, Belgium, Botswana, Britain, Denmark, Germany, Hong Kong, Israel, Italy, the Netherlands, France, South Africa and Canada.