Omicron: For the first time, Brazilian researchers managed to isolate a strain of the omicron variant of the coronavirus. USP scientists obtained the variant from an infected couple who live in South Africa and came to Brazil on a trip.
Now the virus will be cultivated and samples will be distributed to laboratories around the country. Only facilities that have Biosafety Level 3 or higher can receive and carry out research with the coronavirus, to ensure that there is no contamination from researchers. The same was already done with the previous variants.
The omicron variant of the coronavirus was first identified in South Africa and quickly elevated to the category of concern variant by the World Health Organization.
This new strain, which has already been identified in Brazil, has caused concern around the world, and could lead to an increase in the number of deaths. Studies are still being carried out to assess the possibility of vaccine escape by the variant, but preliminary results show that three doses of the immunizers may be enough to protect the population.
The samples were collected at Hospital Albert Einstein and sent to USP last Wednesday (8). The group of researchers, led by Professor Edison Luiz Durigon, was the same one that isolated the first coronavirus sample in the country, in February 2020. At the time, the feat allowed the development of the first tests for covid-19 and the performance of others studies on disease.
Both in 2020 and now, the isolation of the strain was possible thanks to a technique called VNT, which was perfected by Brazilian scientists during the Zika epidemic. In this work, samples collected from patients are incubated with cells in the laboratory, which develop physical aspects that allow for the identification of the pathogen.
The intention now is that the samples help to identify the spread of the strain across the country. In addition, it will allow new studies to assess the effectiveness of vaccines in combating omicrons, especially those applied in Brazil.
It is expected that in two weeks there will be enough material to distribute to partner laboratories in the country. In some special cases, there is an urgent need for the material, which must be sent in advance.