How university screening programs revealed omicron’s spread

June 16, 2022 – Screening programs at Boston-area universities helped show how quickly the Omicron variant of the coronavirus overtook the Delta variant in the fall of 2021, according to a new study.

Using a fast new technique to identify variants, researchers found that Omicron, first reported by researchers in South Africa on November 24, 2021, was already spreading in the U.S. within days, and that it accounted for over 90% of SARS-CoV-2 infections as early as nine days after arriving in a community.

In the study, led by researchers at Harvard Medical School and including experts from Boston University, Harvard, and Northeastern University, scientists used samples from the universities’ asymptomatic screening programs and analyzed them with a technique combining PCR gene amplification and CRISPR gene editing technologies, which enabled the researchers to quickly identify specific genetic mutations that differentiate Omicron from Delta.

Bill Hanage, associate professor…
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