Home South African Omicron variant prevalent in wastewater, says medical research scientists

Omicron variant prevalent in wastewater, says medical research scientists

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Omicron found to be prevalent in wastewater from a sample collected at the Cape Town International Airport.

Scientists from the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) confirmed they have detected the Omicron variant in the majority of wastewater treatment plants tested in the City of Cape Town, as well as from a sample collected at the Cape Town International Airport.

THE daily average of new Covid-19 cases has increased to about 1,600 and is expected to rise as the Western Cape officially rides out its fourth wave of infections.

This as scientists from the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) confirmed they have detected the Omicron variant in the majority of wastewater treatment plants tested in the City of Cape Town, as well as from a sample collected at the Cape Town International Airport.

However, authorities said the province is not yet seeing the same rapid increases in hospitalisations and deaths as previous waves, although it is still too early to tell if this trend will continue over the next few weeks.

Premier Alan Winde said: “While it is always scary to hear we are facing another wave of Covid-19 cases, we must remain calm and turn our anxiety into action. We can do this by following four steps: vaccinate as soon as possible. Ensure you wear your mask. Also, ensure good ventilation with lots of fresh air, and if you are meeting others, do it outside. Together with the golden rules of good hygiene, including staying home when you feel sick, we can slow the spread and save lives and jobs in the Western Cape.”

SAMRC’s Biomedical Research and Innovation Platform Deputy Director Professor Rabia Johnson said the Omicron variant has been found in 11 of 12 (92%) samples of wastewater collected from Cape Town treatment plants.

“The Delta variant remained dominant in only one wastewater treatment plant tested,” Johnson said.

“We have also detected Omicron in a series of wastewater samples collected from the Cape Town International Airport. Our data at this stage show that Omicron was first detected at CTIA on November 23,” she added.

The extent to which the Omicron variant has spread to rural areas outside Cape Town is not known. However genetic sequencing undertaken on a sample of wastewater collected from the rural town of Rawsonville in the Breede Valley indicated the absence of omicron, with the Delta variant remaining dominant.

The SAMRC said this does not necessarily reflect that Omicron is not being transmitted in these areas.

In partnership with Nelson Mandela University, the scientists also conducted tests of wastewater in the Nelson Mandela Bay area, with preliminary results showing that three out of four wastewater treatment plants in that city are positive for Omicron.

Cape Times

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