The new SARS-CoV-2 Omicron variant (B.1.1.529) has been recently declared a Variant of Concern due to a series of important mutations in the viral spike protein and especially in the receptor-binding domain. While investigations into the spread of this new variant are ongoing, the first cases have been detected in Switzerland. Important questions have been raised: (1) Will the PCR assays commonly used to detect SARS-CoV-2 still work for the Omicron variant? (2) Can specific PCR features, e.g. S-gene dropout, be used to identify potential Omicron samples?
In this minireview we provide current knowledge on the Omicron variant and guidance on its PCR validation.