Researchers at the University of Hong Kong (HKU) Department of Microbiology were able to isolate the SARS-CoV-2 Omicron variant from clinical samples. HKU said in a statement that it is the first known research team in Asia to have succeeded in isolating the Omicron variant.
The isolated variant will enable the development and production of vaccines against Omicron, which has been designated a "variant of concern" by the World Health Organization (WHO). The HKU team succeeded in isolating the variant late Monday, local time, four days after the first two cases of Omicron were confirmed in Hong Kong on 25 November, and five days after the variant was first reported to WHO from South Africa on 24 November.
Cases of the Omicron variant have since been reported around the world as governments imposed emergency travel bans and increased surveillance. Professor Kwok-yung Yuen, Head of Infectious Diseases, who led the study, said: "We recognized the serious threats of the variation and acted immediately. "Isolating the variation is the first step in the immediate study of the variant," he said.
The research team is currently working on expanding the virus for use in assessing its infectivity, immunosuppression, and pathogenicity in animal models. The team is also exploring opportunities for the urgent development and production of inactivated whole virus vaccines.
Source: China International Radio