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WHO brands new COVID strain B.1.1.529 with Greek letter Omicron

Current SARS-CoV-2 PCR diagnostic tools are able to detect this variant, it said.

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Geneva: The new strain of coronavirus B.1.1.529, identified in South Africa, is considered a variant of concern and was named Omicron, the 15th letter of the Greek alphabet, the World Health Organization said in a statement.

“Based on the evidence presented indicative of a detrimental change in COVID-19 epidemiology, the TAG-VE has advised WHO that this variant should be designated as a VOC [variant of concern], and the WHO has designated B.1.1.529 as a VOC, named Omicron,” the WHO said in a statement issued following an emergency meeting of the Technical Advisory Group on SARS-CoV-2 Virus Evolution.

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Current SARS-CoV-2 PCR diagnostic tools are able to detect this variant, it said.

“Several labs have indicated that for one widely used PCR test, one of the three target genes is not detected (called S gene dropout or S gene target failure) and this test can therefore be used as a marker for this variant, pending sequencing confirmation,” the statement says.

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