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Roche unveils test to trace fast-spreading Omicron variant

Roche, a Swiss multinational healthcare company, has unveiled a new test for targeting the fast-spreading XBB.1.5 Omicron sub-variant.

HQ Team

January 27, 2023: Roche, a Swiss multinational healthcare company, has unveiled a new test for targeting the fast-spreading XBB.1.5 Omicron sub-variant.

Roche and its subsidiary TIB Molbiol have developed the Covid-19 PCR test for researchers that detects and differentiates the latest variant of concern, XBB.1.5, according to a company statement.

The XBB.1.5 variant is prevalent in the United States and quickly spreads to other countries. 

“Being able to differentiate emerging variants and understand their similarities and mutations provides a basis for experts to make predictions about their spread and respond with appropriate treatment strategies.”

The test is for research use only and it specifically targets the unique mutation found within the XBB.1.5 Omicron sub-variant. Typical clinical samples are throat and nasopharyngeal swabs, sputum, saliva or gargle solution.

Genetic material

The runs on real-time polymerase chain reaction platforms or PCR. PCR is used to detect genetic material from a specific organism, such as a virus.

The test detects the presence of a virus if you have the virus at the time of the test. The test could also see virus fragments even after you are no longer infected.

Scientists use PCR technology to amplify small amounts of RNA from specimens into deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), which is replicated until SARS-CoV-2 is detectable if present. 

The PCR test has been the standard for diagnosing Covid-19 since being authorized in February 2020. It’s accurate and reliable.

Virus lineage

According to the statement, the results of the test will help closely track the virus’ lineage and provide insights into the epidemiology and impact it has on public health.

XBB.1.5 is a sub-variant of a SARS-CoV-2 variant named XBB. That lineage is a recombinant of two descendants of the BA.2 lineage that began spiking in early 2022.

BA.2 is also a sub-variant of Omicron. XBB’s spike protein is a group of mutations that boost the variant’s ability to evade antibodies.

The World Health Organization has expressed concern over XBB.1.5’s high transmissibility and growth.

“Roche continues to develop timely diagnostic innovations related to Covid-19 by providing valuable insights – helping scientists and physicians understand this new strain, how it differs from other variants, and the impact it may have on public health,” said Matt Sause, CEO of Roche Diagnostics. 

“Since the start of this global health crisis, Roche has been committed to bringing effective diagnostic solutions to address unmet needs of healthcare communities worldwide.”

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