Covid-19: CHRU Bretonneau laboratory in Tours examines the Omicron variant

The new variant of Omicron is very concerning because it is so contagious. Proof of this is: it is now mostly in France, Public Health France indicates this Thursday afternoon in its weekly update. It represents more than one in six positive cases this week. “62.4% of the tests analyzed showed a profile compatible with the Omicron variant”, specifies SPF. On December 13, it accounted for only 15% of positive cases.

In Indre-et-Loire, Omicron accounted for 13.2% of the variant cases detected, on December 19, according to the latest data from Public Health France. To better identify it, the CHRU Bretonneau Emergency Laboratory in Tours performs the sequencing.

30 to 40 samples sequenced each week

Sequencing carried out by the laboratory since March 2021. Not all positive tests in the Center-Val de Loire region are analyzed, they are too numerous, but 30 and 40 samples are sequenced per week, out of the approximately 400 PCR positive tests daily.

Serious cases and vaccine leaks are also sequenced, these vaccinated people who still contract COVID – Lynda Handala, virologist at the CHRU of Tours

Engineers, with the advice of the Regional Health Agency (ARS) in particular, prioritize. “These are, for example, immunosuppressed patients infected by SARS VOC 2. This allows adaptation of therapy”, explains Lynda Handala, virologist at CHRU in Tours. The teams also sequence a sample of positive samples to give a picture of what is circulating in the population. And we also sequence the severe cases and the vaccine leaks, it is these vaccinated people who still contract COVID. Generally they are benign infections, but we are interested in these cases to know if a particular variant is responsible for this escape of the vaccine ”.

Thibault Guinoiseau, Emergency Laboratory Engineer and Lynda Handala Virologist from the CHRU Virology Department in Tours. © Radio France
Mathilde errard

Sequencing, the last step to identify a variant

Sequencing is, after selection, the last step in determining a variant. The samples come from the department hospitals, Orleans, Blois and Châteauroux. They are then read by the Minion, a machine no bigger than a tablet that analyzes the sample.

A year ago, the virology department was unable to sequence and the samples were sent to Paris. Since March 2021, CHRU has been more independent, “more responsive,” adds Thibault Guinoiseau, an engineer in the lab.

The Emergency Laboratory engineers then deposit this data in a global database, Gisaid, to follow the evolution of the virus and the variants in time and space.

Read also
Coronavirus: contagion, dangerousness, resistance to vaccines … what we know about the Omicron variant

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