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New technology identifies Omicron within an hour

Testing times: Dr Carika Weldon, director of the Bermuda Molecular Diagnostics and Research Laboratory (File photograph)

Bermuda can now identify new variants of the Covid-19 virus thanks to new technology.

Carika Weldon, the director of the Bermuda Molecular Diagnostic and Research Laboratory, said that nanopore sequencing meant the laboratory was able to conduct viral whole genome sequencing and identify the new Omicron variant inside an hour.

Dr Weldon added: “We know that Omicron is new and it has a bunch of mutations that we’ve never seen before.

“A lot of the changes are in places that we can’t see. It’s almost like it’s behind our back whereas genome sequencing can give us that full 360.

“So we wanted to make sure that we could be in a position to move quickly when the potential was here.

“We wanted to make sure we had everything in our toolbox to identify it if we did have a case.“

Dr Weldon said: “We’ve had the machine in the lab since June but we just haven’t been able to use it until this weekend so we’re all elated.

“Now that sequencing has confirmed the first case, as well as knowing what the corresponding results for Omicron look like on our variant tests, we can now confirm an Omicron case within an hour.”

Dr Weldon said that the development was made possible through MDL’s collaboration with Weill Cornell Medicine Centre in New York.

She added: “We are looking to establish a long-term collaboration with Cornell University and the New York Genome centre, who can sequence thousands of samples at a time as opposed to the 20 samples per month that we can currently send to the Caribbean Public Health Agency.

“With the support from the Mason Lab, MDL will be equipped to sequence on-island and of the unordinary cases that may be detected from our variant tests within a matter of hours.”

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Published December 08, 2021 at 7:46 am (Updated December 08, 2021 at 7:35 am)

New technology identifies Omicron within an hour

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