Kean University’s Diagnostic Lab is now testing for the omicron variant
At the lab, up to 2,000 tests from throughout Union County, including Kean's campus, are processed each week, resulting in 30-50 positive cases weekly. It takes 3-4 days to sequence a sample and identify variants.
"Kean University has set itself apart in our COVID-19 response and our collaboration with the County of Union," says Kean President Lamont O. Repollet, Ed.D. "Our COVID-19 Diagnostic Lab now plays a critical role in keeping tabs on the virus' mutations to inform the public and provide key information to health officials."
The additional surveillance for the latest COVID-19 variant began last week. Every COVID-positive sample at the Kean lab is now tested for the omicron variant, which was first detected in late November in South Africa.
"There's international concern about the spread of the virus," says Keith Bostian, Ph.D., dean of Kean's New Jersey Center for Science, Technology and Mathematics. "The New York-New Jersey area is an obvious likely target for initiation and spread within the United States. We felt that we needed to be at the forefront, with a sentinel effort to detect omicron when it occurs in Union County."
So far, the Kean lab has not found omicron in any of the COVID-positive samples it has processed, but Bostian and the Director of Lab Operations Bob McLaughlin, Ph.D., believe it is only a matter of time.
"My expectations are we will see it, definitely," says McLaughlin. "Unfortunately, I would expect to see it probably within this week or next week as sequencing ramps up."
Since January, the lab has identified every variant that preceded omicron, including the delta variant, which continues to be the dominant strain of COVID-19 in New Jersey and the United States.
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