Home-grown biotechnology firm BioAcumen Global has launched Singapore’s first Omicron-specific Covid-19 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) kit, Report informs referring to The Straits Times.

The new BioA Omicron Detection Kit is able to detect the Omicron variant specifically, besides prior variants of the coronavirus.

This means that a person will receive one of three results: Covid-19 positive and Omicron positive; Covid-19 positive and Omicron negative; or Covid-19 and Omicron negative.

Currently, PCR kits here that are capable of detecting Omicron require an additional gene sequencing step to confirm the specific variant. This takes an additional day.

This test kit’s ability to detect and identify the Omicron variant specifically will speed up the testing process.

PCR test results typically take about several hours to a day to process, after factoring in time taken for swabbing, logistics and the uploading of test results. This does not include the time needed for additional gene sequencing, if necessary.

Some PCR kits, such as those currently in use by medical technology firm Acumen Diagnostics and biotech firm MiRXES, are able to detect both the Delta and the Omicron strains, but to confirm if a positive case has been infected by Omicron, gene sequencing is necessary.

A further advantage of the BioA Omicron test is that it has been freeze-dried, or lyophilised, so it does not require refrigeration, unlike other “wet” PCR test kits.

This has simplified storage and transportation requirements, allowing the kit to be stored at room temperature for up to a year.

Using these freeze-dried Omicron-specific PCR kits is simple. A swab sample is added to a bead of pre-mixed ingredients, then the mixture is put through the PCR machine. Results will be ready about 90 minutes after the swab is collected.