Amid the rising concerns over Omicron, the new variant of coronavirus, researchers are pitching for genome sequencing of positive samples using RT-PCR kits that employ 'S' Gene Target Failure (SGTF) strategy to detect the variant.
The Maharashtra government has asked districts to procure the S-gene test, which enables quick detection of the variant. However, apart from Mumbai and Pune, no other district in the state has these test kits.
According to reports from The Indian Express, out of 36 districts in Maharashtra, only Pune and Mumbai have the kits to run SGTF tests.
In other districts, the government-provided RT-PCR kits detect only the E, N, Rdrp genes.
Tests target "multiple genes" of the virus so that a broad range of variants are covered. 'S' Gene, ORF, 'N' gene, Rdrp, 'E' gene etc are viral genes that are targeted to detect COVID-19 virus, and multiple genes make up the genetic structure of SARS-CoV-2
The absence of the S-gene is an indicator of the presence of the Omicron variant in a COVID-19 positive patient.
The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has procured around 1,200 kits to run SGTF tests. However, neighbouring Kalyan-Dombivli Municipal Corporation (KDMC), where the first case in Maharashtra was detected does not have any kits.
The South Africa returnees' swab sample was sent to Kasturba Gandhi Hospital for genome sequencing which took four days to provide the result.
A senior health officer told The Indian Express that in order to boost the procurement the state should facilitate the process.
Meanwhile, the genome sequencing reports of over 22 suspected Omicron patients in Maharashtra are awaited.
(With agency inputs)