omicron: Indian Institute succeeds in isolating and cultivating the Omicron strain in the laboratory

In a major development, India has succeeded in isolating and growing the highly transmissible Omicron variant of the Covid-19 virus in a laboratory setting.

Experts from the Translational Health Science and Technology Institute (THSTI), an autonomous institute in the Department of Biotechnology (DBT), have isolated and cultivated the strain of Covid-19 in its laboratory, experts told ET.

Balram Bhargava, director general of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), said that both the ICMR and DBT had some success in cultivating the virus.

“Both ICMR and DBT have worked continuously to cultivate the virus. We initially had some difficulty cultivating and growing the virus, now we have had some success cultivating the virus in both ICMR and DBT,” he said .

The Omicron, grown in the laboratory, will help to understand the behavior of the tribe in the Indian population, determine its infectivity and evaluate the effectiveness of existing vaccines.

“We have the sera from Omicron-infected individuals, those infected with Delta and the original strain, and we are testing the vaccines’ effectiveness on those variants,” added Bhargava.

Experts said it will take time to find out if the new variant is immune to vaccines and how badly it affects an infected person.

The National Institute of Virology in Pune is also trying to grow the new variety.

Then the experts know whether the variant can escape the immune response and how contagious it is. The results will also shape policy on the need for booster doses.

The National Technical Advisory Group on Immunization (NTAGI) will meet in January to consider the need for a booster dose, an additional dose for immunocompromised individuals, and vaccination for children.

“By then, the variant would have been grown in the laboratory and we would have some responses about the effectiveness of vaccines against Omicron,” said a senior government official.

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