January 21, 2022

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Omicron Is a Costume Rehearsal for the Subsequent Pandemic

Omicron Is a Dress Rehearsal for the Next Pandemic

In every other context, it might have been unremarkable: On Sunday, Nov. 28, a San Francisco resident who had been feeling mildly ailing took a Covid take a look at. The subsequent day, it got here again constructive.

What set off alarm bells, nonetheless, was that the resident had lately returned from South Africa, the place the newly found Omicron variant was widespread.

The traveler’s take a look at pattern was flagged for precedence genomic sequencing, which might reveal the exact genetic code of the virus that had contaminated the traveler — and whether or not it had Omicron’s telltale mutations.

Dr. Chiu, the San Francisco microbiologist, was tapped to do the sequencing. By 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 30, only a few hours after Dr. Chiu first realized concerning the pattern, it was hand-delivered to his lab, packed in dry ice.

Dr. Chiu and his colleagues shortly set to work. Though producing the complete sequence takes hours, the scientists selected to make use of a way often called nanopore sequencing, which allowed them to research the leads to real-time, whereas the method was nonetheless underway.

“As the info collected, we had been capable of determine an increasing number of mutations,” Dr. Chiu recalled.

Earlier than daybreak, he was sure: It was Omicron, the first case found in the US. Lower than every week had handed since South Africa first publicly introduced the existence of the variant.

We can not struggle what we can not see, and stopping the following pandemic begins with detecting and monitoring the pathogens that threaten us. In that regard, not less than, “we’re terribly higher off than we had been this time final 12 months,” stated Joseph Fauver, a genomic epidemiologist on the College of Nebraska Medical Heart in Omaha.

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