Kean University lab testing for variants of COVID-19, including omicron
One place where they are now testing for the omicron strain is the New Jersey Center for Science, Technology and Math at Kean University. The lab is a government-certified COVID-19 Clinical Diagnostic Lab.
This is part of Kean’s new Center for Clinical Laboratory Science & Pandemic Research, which was born out of the pandemic. Researchers have been testing for COVID-19 since early in the pandemic. Now they are keeping an eye out for variants.
“We do PCR-based nasal swab detection,” says director Bob McLaughlin, PhD. “So, from all of the various collection sites across Union County, the samples are then transported to us… We will determine if the COVID virus is present in any of the samples.”
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Any samples that test positive for the virus in the lab are then brought over to another lab. This is where they sequence the samples for variants. Last week, the lab started testing for omicron.
"Having the Sentinel system allowing us to see what variants are here and getting detection from new variants that will ultimately occur is very important for understanding the public health measures that we need to protect against other occurrences of the virus and other viruses,” says Keith Bostian, PhD, dean of the Center for Science Technology & Mathematics.
About eight researchers work in the lab. They can process up to 2,000 COVID-19 tests a week. The demand has not been very high recently, but the work they do is an important part of the global efforts to fight the virus.
“I’m hoping we can add a little bit of extra information to the general knowledge pool about what is emerging and how it's spreading,” says McLaughlin.
It takes the researchers about three or four days to identify variants.