GREENVILLE CO., SC (WSPA) – An upstate company, Premier Medical Laboratory Services, is playing a critical role in detecting the novel COVID-19 variant, Omicron, in the community.
Scientists use machines to take samples, both from students and members of the Upstate community, to determine which COVID-19 variants are present in our area.
The lab is working on finding features of Omicron, in samples that they sequence. They’ve done PCR testing, where they test for active infections, for all 50 states. They also do Next Genetic Sequencing, which examines which variant is responsible when a test comes back positive.
“We are now receiving a lot of samples from Clemson to hopefully eventually run into the Omicron where we can bring it in-house and the research development department characterize the virus,” said Dr. Stewart Holt of the lab.
dr. Stewart Holt, technical director of research and development for the lab, said they’re looking into the new variant to answer how much impact it will have.
“Is it going to affect the PCR? Is it going to affect the antibody tests? Will it affect vaccinations? Those are still questions out there, but again, we’re well positioned to address those,” he said.
Premiere Medical Laboratory Services is one of the few labs in the Southeast that can do this type of testing. dr. Holt says each variant is just a mutation of the virus.
“It’s literally a thinking organism that will say okay, if I mutate this way, I’ll be able to attach to your nasal cavity a little bit more, enter your cell and replicate and become more survivable,” said Dr. Holt.
He said Omicron is a mutation that is easier to attach, replicate and survive. He said they conducted thousands of tests to determine which variant caused the positive test. Their big hurdle is finding a test with the Omicron variant.
dr. Holt said there are still many questions, but they plan to help find the answers. He said that while the Omicron variant is the newest, it seems that the Delta variant is the most common and causes the most severe symptoms in people.
dr. Holt said the emergence of these variants highlights the importance of getting vaccinated, wearing your mask and occasionally social distancing.