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Dec. 21, 2021

First Cases of Omicron Identified at UArizona

TUCSON, Ariz. — The University of Arizona has identified its first cases of the omicron variant within the Tucson campus community.

Researchers from a lab in the University of Arizona Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology made the discovery at about 3:30 a.m. on Dec. 21 using genomic testing, according to UArizona virology expert Michael Worobey. The samples came from the university’s COVID-19 testing program through a saline gargle qPCR test that Worobey introduced to campus in October 2020. Researchers identified the omicron variant in seven samples within 10 hours of the UArizona Genetics Core lab forwarding them. 

Worobey tweeted this morning about his lab’s discovery after notifying University of Arizona leadership. Worobey is head of the UArizona College of Science’s Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and a member of the BIO5 Institute. He is known around the world for his work on viral pandemics.

Following standard protocol for positive COVID-19 tests, the university has begun the process of contact tracing and notifying those who were in contact with the individuals.

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Media contact:
Pam Scott
University Communications
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University Communications

The University of Arizona, a land-grant university with two independently accredited medical schools, is one of the nation's top 50 public universities, according to U.S. News & World Report. Established in 1885, the university is widely recognized as a student-centric university and has been designated as a Hispanic Serving Institution by the U.S. Department of Education. The university ranked in the top 20 in 2019 in research expenditures among all public universities, according to the National Science Foundation, and is a leading Research 1 institution with $734 million in annual research expenditures. The university advances the frontiers of interdisciplinary scholarship and entrepreneurial partnerships as a member of the Association of American Universities, the 66 leading public and private research universities in the U.S. It benefits the state with an estimated economic impact of $4.1 billion annually. For the latest on the University of Arizona response to the novel coronavirus, visit the university's COVID-19 webpage.

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