Missouri wastewater researchers ready to alert state at first sign of Omicron variant

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SPRINGFIELD, Mo.- Top health officials here in Missouri are preparing for the first sign of the COVID-19 Omicron coronavirus variant.

Researchers at the University of Missouri continue to test community wastewater weekly to detect new variants.

Those with the project said they are ready to inform the state at the first sign of the new variant.

University of Missouri School of Medicine Professor and Researcher, Marc Johnson, said they currently are testing samples from 98 communities and 36 state facilities.

“If you look at sort of where we’re sampling and where the population is in the state of Missouri, we’ve got just about every town bigger than 10,000,” Johnson said.

Officials with the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services said wastewater testing continues to be one of two key programs the state continues to use to identify variants as they emerge.

“The monoclonal therapies probably will not work at all with this lineage,” Johnson said. “It is gonna be the most vaccine-resistant lineage we’ve seen so far. The mutations that it has are not random, they’re mutations that we know. They’re escape mutants.”

However, Johnson said there is still much to learn when it comes to the new variant.

“The fact that it has gained ground against Delta anywhere is pretty impressive and makes me think that probably it’s gonna spread,” Johnson said. “I don’t think it’s a foregone conclusion yet.”

He said getting the COVID-19 vaccine is always better than not when it comes to any COVID-19 variant.

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