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LSU lab working to track Omicron cases as they increase in Louisiana

Published: Dec. 10, 2021 at 9:28 PM CST
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Louisiana now reports 45 COVID-19 cases of the Omicron variant, five of which are confirmed.

The team at LSU Health New Orleans’ Precision Medicine Laboratory, led by Dr. Lucio Miele and Dr. Gordon Love, is dedicated to making sure our community is not blindsided again.

“We’re one of the few accredited laboratories doing this work,” Love said.

Sequencing is reading the virus’ genetic code to figure out which strain of COVID the positive case is.

Miele and Love say any time they see mitigation mandates lifted, they watch new mutations and variants pop up.

Out of the 567 new cases reported Friday, the lab found two confirmed cases of the Omicron variant from the New Orleans area.

“This is a sentinel effort,” Love said. “We are finding out information about new mutations in the Coronavirus. As it goes, I think we’re seeing that this is a very agile virus and it is adapting and changing very rapidly.”

But the LSU team is adapting and changing rapidly as well, building the over $2 million dollar lab from the ground up. They can now work on hundreds of samples at a time.

“What we saw with Delta is that there wasn’t just one Delta, there are dozens of children of Delta,” Miele said “Now, already, among these two sequences that we’ve seen, there are some mutations that were not in the original Omicron. We don’t know what they do, we have no idea what their significance is, but if Omicron is doing the same thing that Delta was doing, it’s going to produce a progeny of sub-variants. We’re going to be able to figure out whether any of these changes is meaningful, meaning it facilitates infections in vaccinated patients, or it facilitates infections in patients who’ve already had COVID in the past. So, that’s the only way to really keep track of what the virus is doing.”

Although we still don’t know what Omicron is doing, both doctors recommend vaccination and especially the booster because even if they don’t protect you from infection, they will protect you from hospitalization and death.

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