COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Doctors and health leaders are closely watching all of the developments with the COVID-19 omicron variant.
Ohio is constantly looking at what variants are found in the state, something government and private laboratories and some hospitals and universities have been doing for several months.
One of those labs is at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical center.
Inside a biosafety cabinet at the Wexner Medical Center, samples of postiive COVID-19 tests are being ready for sequencing; in other words, the prep work is being done so scientists can figure out which variant those positive cases are.
“In order to get the best sequencing results, we want to load the same amount of sample from each individual,” said Dr. Sara Koenig, the director of COVID-19 Advanced Technologies at the Ohio State University College of Medicine.
Koening showed the lab where the sequencing is performed. Once positive samples arrive at the lab, they’re taken through several steps, several rooms, and several machines before the variant is finally determined. The last machine gives researchers the information in a format they can analyze.
“Everything else is sequence prep, this is sequencing,” she said.
The sequencing can only be done with PCR tests. It’s a process Koenig said used to take three days; now, she said her team can do it in one.
“When new variants come out like omicron or when delta or alpha were coming out, it’s very important to us to be able to identify those samples as soon as possible,” she said.
According to the Ohio Department of Health, the omicron variant has not been found in Ohio. Koenig said samples she ran Tuesday all came back as the delta variant, which nearly 100 percent of the samples analyzed in her lab have done since July.
“Since the beginning of 2021 really, since we became concerned with the increasing number of variants, we have been sequencing every positive test that comes into Ohio State,” Koenig said.
The United States said Wednesday a person in California has been identified as having the omicron variant.
Identifying the variant takes longer than finding out if someone has contracted COVID-19.
All of the information found in the OSU lab or any other sequencing lab is shared with the state. The samples worked on Wednesday should be ready Thursday.