Jakarta (Indonesia Window) – Early detection of COVID-19 new variant Omicron (B.1.1.529) in Indonesia is carried out using the S-gene target failure (SGTF) method, Minister of Health Budi Gunadi Sadikin has said.
One of the Omicron mutations is found in the S spike (virus crown), and this can be identified by PCR, said the minister when speaking at a discussion broadcast on YouTube on Wednesday (Dec. 1).
“There is a method called SGTF. If you use PCR reagents, the virus is not detected or it is a target failure, but the other genes are positive, and this is most likely Omicron,” Budi explained.
According to him, the Ministry of Health has operated 12 PCR test laboratories at every state borders on land, sea and air, to check virus samples from travelers who are confirmed positive for COVID-19.
Budi said the method used by laboratory personnel in researching genome sequencing of the Omicron variant was focused on SGTF.
The same method, he added, was also applied in 1,800 laboratories under the Ministry of Health.
Budi suggested that genome sequencing should not be carried out as whole genome sequencing (WGS) because it could prolong the completion process.
“WGS is long, with 30,000 bases or viral genes that should be sequenced. Viral crown is only the one we should take, so the number could go down from 30,000 to 3,000 or 5,000 sequences from the base, so that the process would be faster,” he explained.
In order to speed up the genome sequencing research process, the Ministry of Health will install 11 units of machines in laboratories outside the Java island.
Currently there are 12 machines operating in Java island and South Sulawesi province. The same equipment will be placed in the province of North Sumatra, and the islands of Kalimantan, Sulawesi, Nusa Tenggara, Papua and Maluku, he said.
Budi is optimistic that the addition of the machines would cut the completion time of genome sequencing in Indonesia, from two weeks to five to three days.
Reporting by Indonesia Window