Medical Technology

IDSA Experts: Immunocompromised Key to Identifying Micron

Editor’s note: Find the latest COVID-19 news and guidance in Medscape’s Coronavirus Resource Center.

Dr Carlos del Rio

Even as officials await more information regarding the transmission, virulence, and vaccine evasion capabilities of the Omicron variant, one immediate option they recommend is prioritizing the genetic sequencing of positive samples of the virus, especially from immune-compromised people.

Concentrating on this group of people could make sense, experts said at a December 2 media briefing by the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA).

Officials believe that the affected person was immune compromised and allowed time for the virus to generate the new virus.

Carlos del Rio, MD said that Omicron is particularly alarming since it is a multi-factorial virus. It is believed that the virus was found in a single patient, likely someone who was immunosuppressed and was unable to eliminate it.

Del Rio, who is also the president-elect on IDSA’s board of directors Del Rio added that, in addition to vaccinating more people in the world, he should be more concerned about those who are immunosuppressed, as they may be the ones where the virus continues to evolve.

Del Rio relies on colleagues from transplant medicine and infectious diseases to identify patients with an immunocompromised conditions who have tested positive for SARS-CoV-2. “Just yesterday we encountered an HIV patient in our hospital who was suffering from COVID. The consultant on the team immediately said, “Let’s get this [sampleto genetic surveillance,”” he said.

It’s the Time for Testing?

Dr Julie Vaishampayan

Public health officials are intensifying efforts to address the numerous uncertainties surrounding Omicron, Julie Vaishampayan, MD, MPH, said during the briefing for the media.

“We simply need more knowledge and science,” she said. Public health is increasing testing and whole genome sequencing, case investigation and contact tracing as cases are identified.

The need for action is urgent as winter draws near and colder weather draws more people inside. “We are in the midst of the year…when respiratory viruses are at their peak,” said Vaishampayan (chair of the IDSA Public Health Committee) and a Stanislaus County Public Health officer in Modesto.

Individual Americans can play their part, she said. Vaishampayan suggested that people take additional layers of protection. Consider additional testing and wearing masks in public spaces where you don’t know anyone who is vaccinated. Also “get your flu shot,” Vaishampayan advised.

Del Rio agreed. “We require more testing. I think testing had gone down quite in the US.”

Vaishampayan does not suggest that people cancel holiday gatherings. “I’m not suggesting you change your plans. I’m just suggesting that you take a close look at what you’re planning to do, and maybe add some additional layers.”

US Sequencing Much Improved

Del Rio stated that the rapid detection in South Africa of Omicron by Omicron illustrates the need for active surveillance for new and circulating variants within the United States.

The sequencing of DNA-positive samples has dramatically improved in the United States, he said. “We were a long way behind with genomic surveillance in the US in the year 2020. We’ve done a far better job this year.”

Del Rio explained that nationwide sequencing of positive samples is possible for up to 7% of all positive samples. This is accomplished through a network of university, private and public health labs. Vaishampayan also estimated that one out of seven positive California samples undergoes whole-genome sequencing.

Emory University is working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Georgia Department of Health to conduct viral surveillance, for example.

“In fact, we’re currently working to improve genomic surveillance surrounding immunosuppressed patients because this is a issue that many people have,” del Rio stated.

Don’t Discount Delta

While what is known and unknown about Omicron continues to dominate the news headlines and the interest of health officials from all over the world, “let’s not forget Delta, our current problem,” del Rio said.

Around 100,000 people are newly diagnosed daily with COVID-19 in the United States, about 5000 patients are admitted to hospitals, “and we’re running about 1000 people dying of COVID, even in our country every day,” he said.

Vaccination is still the number one priority. “With Delta circulating right now I’m telling people that you’re going to encounter Delta at some point,” del Rio said. “When you encounter it, it’s better get vaccinated instead of not.”

“It’s no different than saying you’re going to encounter a traffic accident at some point in time and you’re better off wearing your seatbelt instead of not wearing one,” he said.

“We still have major issues with Delta,” del Rio said. “Having stated that there is a possibility that Omicron is on the way.”

Based on the media briefing on December 2 by IDSA on the SARS/CoV-2 variant of the Omicron.

Damian McNamara is a staff journalist located in Miami. He covers a broad range of medical specialties, including gastroenterology, infectious diseases, and critical care. Follow Damian on Twitter: @MedReporter.

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Content Source: https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/964063?src=rss

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