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Surveillance for Variants

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.

The Scan

Omicron's Sewage Path

The New York Times writes that testing sewage is helping public health officials track Omicron.

IBM Sells Part of Watson Health

The Wall Street Journal reports IBM is selling part of its Watson Health business to an investment firm.

Identifying the Right Whales

The Boston Globe writes that genetic testing has helped identify North American right whales and find that weaning can take place earlier than thought.

Science Papers on Approach to Quickly Sort Single Cells, Alternative Splicing in Cancer

In Science this week: high-speed sorting of single cells using fluorescence imaging, and more.