Clemson-linked lab tracks omicron's spread to Upstate.

Six days after the Medical University of South Carolina identified the first three cases of the omicron COVID-19 variant in the state, Greenville-basedPremier Medical Laboratoryhas confirmed the variant's presence at Clemson University.

In partnership with an on-campus lab, Premier tracks novel variants of the COVID-19 virus through aNational Institutes of Health-funded process called Next Generation Sequencing.

The process decodes a virus' genetic makeup to determine how it is mutating and spreading throughout a population.

By Dec. 15, MUSC used this process to identify three Omicron cases from Charleston, North Charleston and Johns Island. The first had been collected on Dec. 4, indicating that the variant has been in the state for a few weeks.

"There's not a whole lot of evidence about severity of disease yet, because we're just starting to see the hospitalizations," Julie Hirschorn, director of the MUSC molecular pathology lab that pinpointed the variant. "In Australia, hospitalizations are pretty low. The hospitalizations in the U.K. also appear to, in early terms, suggest that it's maybe a more mild disease. That's great, except that if you have COVID circulating in large quantities, then you always have that ability for more mutations to happen."

On Monday, Clemson University reported that 10 COVID-19 positive samples detected by the school's REDDI Lab were sent to Premier Medical Laboratory Services, after being flagged for the omicron variant.

Premier has the capacity to sequence up to 42,000 samples per week, according to the company.

"As a proactive and solutions-driven company, we implemented a large-scale Next Generation Sequencing initiative to meet the needs of our population with preparedness for novel variants like omicron," Kevin Murdock, CEO and founder of Premier Medical Laboratory Services, said in a news release. "Through partnerships like ours with Clemson...

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