Reditus Data Confirm Omicron Quickly Became Dominant Variant

Reditus Laboratories’ data have confirmed what some people already suspected — that the omicron variant quickly became the predominant COVID-19 variant in Illinois.

Reditus CEO Dr. Aaron Rossi has reported that, of the SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) specimens collected on Jan. 11 and 12, 90 were sequenced using the lab’s Illumina Next Seq Sequencing technology. Of those 90, 88 were identified as the omicron variant and two were the delta variant.

Of positive specimens collected from Dec. 14 through 18, 96 were sequenced. Ninety-four of those were identified as the omicron variant and two as the delta variant, Dr. Rossi reported.

By comparison, of positive specimens collected from Dec. 1 through 4, 188 were sequenced and all 188 were identified as the delta variant.

“The omicron variant is currently the most predominate SARS-CoV-2 circulating within the U.S. as it’s been anticipated,” Dr. Rossi said. “The interesting story here is, rapidly, omicron became almost 100% of all positive cases. The data does show that also is the case in our testing area.” The majority of cases identified during the sequencing runs were from people from throughout Illinois.

Variants are of concern because they have been shown to be potentially more contagious and transmissible. Dr. Rossi shared the sequencing information with the public last week to keep people aware of the spreading variant.

Reditus also shares sequencing data with the Illinois Department of Public Health, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and GISAID, a global initiative that provides access to genomic data of influenza viruses and COVID-19.

Reditus tests nasal samples collected for COVID-19 using gold-standard PCR (polymerase chain reaction) testing, which is the most accurate and reliable test to diagnose COVID-19 and more accurate than rapid testing.

“At the end of the day, this is a virus that mutates rapidly and it’s hard to have an over-the-counter test that was created several months ago to keep up with the mutating virus,” Dr. Rossi said.

“At the end of the day, this is a virus that mutates rapidly and it’s hard to have an over-the-counter test that was created several months ago to keep up with the mutating virus,” Dr. Rossi said.

Reditus has experienced a recent surge in testing, in part, because of the omicron variant. During a recent 46-day stretch, Reditus processed more than 446,000 tests. Nonetheless, Reditus’ average turnaround time to process test results was about 20 hours. Reditus has been able to accomplish this because employees have taken on extra work and new employees have been hired, Dr. Rossi said.

“I have great employees,” he said. “They work day and night.” In addition, Reditus hired more than 100 employees to help with the surge between Dec. 1 and Jan. 31.

Since April 2020, Reditus has processed about 4 million COVID tests, Dr. Rossi said.

Viruses generally are less pathogenic (disease causing) over time and some researchers are predicting that COVID-19 will become a seasonal disease. Testing for COVID-19 will remain an important part of the disease’s management, Dr. Rossi said.

“When these viruses mutate over time, they become less pathogenic, meaning the severity of symptoms are less,” Dr. Rossi said. “There will be more variants down the road. Our hope is we can live with it and we can move on with everyone’s lives here.”