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UPDATE 1-Thermo Fisher says its COVID-19 tests accurately detects Omicron variant

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(Updates with additional comments from other testmakers)

By Radhika Anilkumar and Carl O'Donnell

Nov 29 (Reuters) - Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc said on Monday its COVID-19 diagnostic tests can accurately detect the new coronavirus variant Omicron that has prompted several countries to shut their borders.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) last week classified the Omicron variant as a SARS-CoV-2 "variant of concern," saying it may spread more quickly than other forms.

Thermo Fisher's TaqPath COVID-19 assays can report accurate results even in the case where one of the gene targets is impacted by a mutation, the company said in a statement. "This assay can be used not only to successfully detect COVID-19 but… it can also be used as a proxy for the variant," Mark Stevenson, chief operating officer at Thermo Fisher Scientific, said in an interview.

Stevenson said this is the only COVID-19 diagnostic test that is both authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and can be used to indicate if a case is caused by the Omicron variant.

He added that Thermo is prepared to increase its production of tests to meet demand from countries in Africa and elsewhere as they work to track the spread of the new variant.

Other COVID-19 tests, including from Roche Holding AG and Abbott Laboratories, can also be used to diagnose positive cases of COVID-19 caused by the variant, though only Thermo Fisher has so far confirmed that its test can be used to help identify the variant.

"We have conducted an assessment of the Omicron variant and we’re confident our antigen and PCR tests can" identify positive cases of COVID-19 caused by Omicron, a spokeswoman for Abbott said.

Test samples must still be sent to a lab for sequencing to confirm that the case was caused by Omicron and not another variant with similar features, such as the Alpha variant, Stevenson said.

Omicron, which was first detected in Southern Africa, has now been confirmed in Australia, Belgium, Botswana, Britain, Denmark, Germany, Hong Kong, Israel, Italy, the Netherlands, France, South Africa, and the United States' neighbor to the north, Canada.

The WHO said it was working with technical experts to understand the potential impact of the variant on existing countermeasures against COVID-19, including vaccines. (Reporting by Radhika Anilkumar in Bengaluru and Carl O'Donnell in New York; Editing by Arun Koyyur and Andrea Ricci)

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