More and better coordinated genomic surveillance is needed to detect and track SARS-CoV-2 variants like Omicron, Vox writes.
Omicron was first detected in South Africa and Botswana, and it has since been uncovered in a number of European countries, with findings suggesting it may have been circulating there before South African scientists raised the alarm. "The variant is much more prevalent in South Africa than Europe — the higher the prevalence, the more likely one is to detect it," Scripps Research Institute's Kristian Andersen tells Vox. "That said, South Africa has excellent surveillance that is better than most other countries."
This, Vox says, underscores the need for improved genomic surveillance, including in the US, which recently announced its first detection of a COVID-19 case due to Omicron in California. It adds that an influx of funding has helped boost viral genomic sequencing in the US.
But other countries, it says, are able to do less sequencing. "So in addition to sharing vaccines and tests for COVID-19 with developing countries, countries like the US should also help set up laboratories around the world to conduct more genetic surveillance and reporting," Vox writes.