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Russian test will find a new strain of COVID-19

A Russian test system has been registered that can determine the omicron coronavirus strain, the press service of the Federal Biomedical Agency (FMBA), where it was developed, reported. With the help of it, a type of mutation will be identified in laboratory conditions in an hour and a half. To do this, as with a conventional coronavirus test, a swab from the throat and nose of the sick person will be required.

To identify the omicron, the S-protein of the virus, in which the main changes have occurred, will be examined. It is a crown-shaped thorn and is responsible for the penetration of the pathogen into the cell. In total, more than 50 mutations have been found in the omicron, and 32 of them are in the S-protein. The set of reagents for detecting a new strain is highly sensitive and makes it possible to determine in one test tube not only the omicron, but also the variant of the delta coronavirus, even in asymptomatic carriers.

This is the second Russian test system created to identify varieties of COVID-19. Earlier, FMBA scientists have developed a set of reagents for detecting variants of the coronavirus “alpha”, “beta”, “gamma” and “delta”. The omicron test is expected to be in demand amid the rapid spread of a new variant of the coronavirus. Today this strain is replacing the “delta” that has been prevalent in Russia since last year.

A surge in the incidence of omicron in Russia is expected by February, notes Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova. According to her, the number of cases of infection with this strain detected in Russia reached almost seven hundred per day. According to Rospotrebnadzor, today omicron has been recorded in 13 regions, most of all in Moscow and the Moscow region.

Despite the fact that the mortality rate from it is several times lower than from other variants of the coronavirus, it spreads much faster. The new strain turned out to be more infectious and with a shorter incubation period. This could be another test for the Russian health care system, said Health Minister Mikhail Murashko. He emphasized that the reserve of hospital beds in case of a sharp increase in the number of seriously ill patients is 30%. According to him, omicron poses the greatest danger to unvaccinated citizens, especially from among older age groups and patients with chronic diseases. It is in them that the virus often proceeds with complications.

Vaccination remains the main factor in curbing the explosive growth in incidence, Murashko says. He recalled that the protective effect of the Russian Sputnik V and Sputnik Light vaccines against the omicron was confirmed by a joint Russian-Italian study by the Gamaleya Center and the Spallanzani Institute. “For example, revaccination of patients with Sputnik Light provides good virus neutralization and allows protection against the new COVID-19 strain,” he said.

The minister also drew attention to the fact that the effectiveness of other drugs and vaccines is being studied. It is known that many drugs for the prevention of coronavirus, in particular foreign ones, cause the production of antibodies against the S-protein. And since in the “omicron” the main mutations have occurred just in it, some of them may be useless against this strain.

At the same time, those who have recovered from it may develop a less prolonged and tense immunity to coronavirus, says Nikolai Briko, chief epidemiologist of the Ministry of Health. He recalled that, like influenza, COVID-19 is transmitted not only by airborne droplets, but also by contact, therefore, in order to avoid infection, he advised to observe restrictive measures, visit crowded places less often and wash hands more often.

For the first time “omicron” was identified in South Africa in November, today it is already widespread throughout the world. Scientists do not exclude the emergence of new mutations of the coronavirus, noting that this strain is likely not to be the last.

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