Ottawa wastewater researchers monitoring omicron variant – CBC

Quick sharing of genomic sequence for new variant will lead to more detailed picture soon

Nov 30, 2021

The scientists watching Ottawa’s wastewater for COVID-19 say the new variant hasn’t escaped their testing and they’re starting to collect data about how prevalent it may be in the community.

Throughout the pandemic, Ottawa researchers have been testing the city’s wastewater for traces of genetic material from SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for the respiratory illness. Many of those infected shed the virus through their feces, even if they don’t have symptoms, according to researchers.

Tyson Graber, an associate research scientist at CHEO, eastern Ontario’s children’s hospital, and co-lead investigator on the project, said tracking this new variant can happen faster thanks to South African scientists having already shared omicron’s genomic sequence.

“Already, we have three different tests in the pipeline,” Graber said.

While those tests — developed alongside the National Microbiology Lab in Winnipeg and the University of Waterloo — may take weeks to yield results, having the genomic data has allowed researchers to confirm they aren’t missing a spike in undetected cases.

“We know that our existing test is still able to capture the omicron variant,” Graber said.

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