Omicron Is a Dress Rehearsal for the Up coming Pandemic

In any other context, it would have been unremarkable: On Sunday, Nov. 28, a San Francisco resident who experienced been experience mildly ill took a Covid take a look at. The up coming working day, it arrived back good.

What established off alarm bells, however, was that the resident experienced a short while ago returned from South Africa, in which the newly found out Omicron variant was widespread.

The traveler’s examination sample was flagged for priority genomic sequencing, which would expose the specific genetic code of the virus that had infected the traveler — and whether it experienced Omicron’s telltale mutations.

Dr. Chiu, the San Francisco microbiologist, was tapped to do the sequencing. By 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 30, just a handful of hours after Dr. Chiu to start with realized about the sample, it was hand-shipped to his lab, packed in dry ice.

Dr. Chiu and his colleagues promptly received to operate. Although creating the total sequence can take hours, the experts chose to use a strategy known as nanopore sequencing, which allowed them to assess the success in actual-time, whilst the process was still underway.

“As the knowledge accrued, we were being equipped to detect far more and much more mutations,” Dr. Chiu recalled.

Before dawn, he was selected: It was Omicron, the initial situation located in the United States. Much less than a week experienced passed considering that South Africa very first publicly declared the existence of the variant.

We can not struggle what we are unable to see, and blocking the up coming pandemic begins with detecting and tracking the pathogens that threaten us. In that regard, at minimum, “we’re terribly superior off than we have been this time previous year,” stated Joseph Fauver, a genomic epidemiologist at the University of Nebraska Professional medical Centre in Omaha.

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