Korea develops new technology for detecting Omicron
Korea develops new technology for detecting Omicron

Researchers in Korea have developed a Molecular Diagnostic Technology that can identify different Omicron variants. With the new technology, it will be possible to determine whether a person is infected with Omicron in only 20 minutes. Research on this subject was completed recently, though it may take some time for it to reach the public.

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On October 10, POSTECH announced the development of molecular diagnostics by a team under the guidance of Professor Lee Jung-wook from the Department of Chemical Engineering. An Omicron variant detection tool that yields results in just 20-30 minutes and can be accessed online.

Molecular diagnostic technology can detect ‘stealth omicrons’ that would otherwise be difficult to detect by RT-PCR, reports the research team. Therefore, it can identify mutations at the base of each nucleotide. COVID-19 variants are currently detected by three methods at Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: whole-genome sequencing, target DNA analysis (spike protein-like mutations), and RT-PCR testing.

What is the process behind this technique?

RT-PCR is effective in detecting delta variants, but it is not effective in detecting Omicron. As opposed to DNA or RNA sequencing, molecular diagnostics is the newly developed technology. Current technology is able to detect only a few viruses. However, forensic molecular diagnostics aims to determine which nucleic acid is binding to the nucleic acid in order to detect COVID-19 RNA as soon as it is detected.

In Professor Lee’s opinion, the RT-PCR test can detect N genes close to Omicron, but it has trouble detecting them near the N gene. It is difficult to distinguish ‘stealth omicron’ from other variants since both N and S genes are positive. Omicron is successfully detected using molecular diagnostic technology rather than RT-PCR.

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