Skip to main content

Genome sequencing reveals existence of SARS-CoV-2 B.1.1.529 variant in Egypt



Several SARS-CoV-2 variants with increased transmissibility and/or potential immune escape have emerged and rapidly spread worldwide. Ongoing surveillance analyses are performed worldwide to designate new variants of concern (VOC) of coronavirus.

Main text

This report identifies the first Egyptian patient with a confirmed SARS-CoV-2 omicron variant. The patient showed positivity on reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction and full genome sequencing was performed to confirm the variant. The mutations found in the variant were compared with the GISAID reference strain hCoV-19/Wuhan/WIV04/2019. Genome BLAST showed the highest similarity to omicron variants isolated in South Africa. Phylogenetic analysis revealed that the variant belongs to the 21K clade.


The study indicates the importance of information-sharing among global public health partners. Moreover the importance of implementation of full genome sequencing to rapidly identify and track the new SARS-CoV-2 variants.


The severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) was first being identified in December 2019. The virus was responsible for massive human morbidity and mortality worldwide [1,2,3]. In late 2020, several SARS-CoV-2 “variants of concern” emerged that dictate special scrutiny. The new variants include the UK (UK) alpha variant (B.1.1.7), South Africa beta variant (B.1.351), Gamma (B., and Delta (B.1.617.2). The new variants have increased transmissibility and/or potential immune escape [4,5,6,7].

B.1.1.529 named Omicron variant, was first discovered in Botswana on November 11, 2021. South Africa reported it to the World Health Organization on November 24, 2021, and it was designated as a variant of concern (VOC) on November 26, 2021 [8]. As of 15 December 2021, the Omicron variant has already popped up in around 77 countries with the majority of the cases from the UK, South Africa, and the USA [9]. B.1.1.529 has 32 mutations on the spike protein in comparison with Delta variant (B.1.617.2) that had 9 mutations on the spike protein [10].

Ongoing surveillance analyses are performed worldwide to designate new variants of concern (VOC) of coronavirus. The surveillance is based upon utilizing RT-qPCR techniques for SARS-CoV-2 detection [11, 12], beside the use of next-generation sequencing (NGS) [13, 14]. The continuing surveillance gives the opportunity to track the SARS-CoV-2 genome evolution and variability. Moreover, the use of databases such as GISAID; ( ) that elucidate its genomic characteristics, and Nextstrain; ( ) which monitors its spread within the global population.

This report reports the first omicron variant isolated in Egypt. The variant was verified by reverse transcriptase- polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR), in addition to genomic sequencing and viral phylogenetic analysis.

Main text

A 67-year-old male patient from Ataka, Suez governorate, Egypt, developed mild respiratory symptoms (fever 38 °C, cough, anosmia, and shortness of breath) on 20, November 2021 and was managed for home isolation with symptomatic treatment namely paracetamol and vitamin C supplements. The patient had no history of travel abroad in the last 6 months. He was vaccinated by Sinopharm (1st dose: 3/4/2021 and 2nd dose 24/4/2021) at the Ministry of Health and Population family Unit, Faisal, Suez governorate. Forty-eight hours before the appearance of patient symptoms he had been exposed to a suspected carrier (his son, who had given home isolation care to his sick aunt that is COVID-19 laboratory-confirmed case.

On the 6th of December, 2021 the patient suffered dyspnea and disturbed level of consciousness and was subsequently admitted to Cleopatra Queens hospital, Cairo. A nasopharyngeal swab was collected on the next day and sent to the Reference laboratory for University Hospitals (RLEUH) for COVID 19 laboratory confirmation. Patient received COVID-19 agreed treatment according to the Egyptian ministry of health protocol in correlation with the patient medical condition. On 16th December, 2021 patient was discharged from the hospital after subsiding all symptoms.

RNA extraction was performed by Microlab Nimbus (Hamilton, USA) and a positive result with Ct value 26 was confirmed using Allplex™ 2019-nCoV Assay (Seegene Technologies, Korea). Variant detection was performed using Allplex™ SARS-CoV-2 Master Assay (Seegene Technologies, Korea), and Bio-Rad CFX 96 platform (Bio-Rad, USA). Full genome sequencing was performed using AviSeq COV19 NGS Library Prep kit (Avicenna, UAE). Next-generation sequencing was performed on Illumina iSeq 100 instrument (Illumina, San Diego, US).

Results and discussion

The paired-end raw reads with 100X coverage resulting from the sequencing process were quality-filtered and trimmed using Trimmomatic v0.38 [15]. FASTA files were generated using the virus pathogen database and analysis resource (ViPR) [16]. The resulted FASTA genome was analyzed with Pangolin version 3.1.17 with pango LEARN version 2021-12-06 and pango version v1.2.105 (, last accessed January 08, 2022). Pangolin determined the lineage for the assembly to be BA.1 with a conflict of 0.0. The variant was identified Omicron GRA (B.1.1.529+BA.*). The sequence has been deposited in the Global Initiative on Sharing All Influenza Data (GISAID) database with accession ID: EPI_ISL_7952324. Insertion of 6 nucleotides and Gap of 36 nucleotides were identified in the assembly when compared to the reference WIV04 sequence. . A total of sixty-seven mutations, compared to the reference WIV04 sequence, were identified in the assembly, thirty-one of them are in the S protein (Table 1).

Table 1 List of protein SNPs identified in the isolated variant

Nextclade web tool v.012.0 [17] was used to compare the assembly sequence to SARS-CoV-2 reference sequences and to assign it to clades. As of 08 January 2022, the database includes 18 major clades. The variant is grouped inside the 21K clade (Fig. 1A). The public database GISAID (Shu and McCauley, 2017) was used for BLAST searches and for mutation analysis. The isolated sample showed the highest similarity to EPI_ISL_8427947 isolated in FL, USA; EPI_ISL_8427913 isolated in AL, USA; and EPI_ISL_8427762 isolated in PA, USA.

Fig. 1
figure 1

A Phylogenetic analysis of the omicron variant isolated in this case report. The isolate (arrow) is grouped inside the 21K sequences of SARS-CoV-2 virus. B structural visualization of the spike glycoprotein with aa changes identified in the query sequences shown as colored balls. Spike glycoprotein (PDB: 6acj, EM 4.2 Angstrom) in complex with host cell receptor ACE2 (green ribbon). The variations displayed in structure (nearest residue if in loop/termini region): A67V H69del V70del(69) T95I G142D V143del Y144del(143) Y145del(143) N211del L212I ins214EPE G339D V367F S371L S373P S375F S477N T478K E484A Q493R G496S Q498R N501Y Y505H T547K D614G H655Y N679K(674) P681H(674) D796Y N856K Q954H N969K L981F

The mutations found in the sample were compared with the GISAID reference strain hCoV-19/Wuhan/WIV04/2019 using the CoVsurver mutation analysis tool (, which provides geographic and temporal distributions of SARS-CoV-2 mutations (Fig. 1B).


In USA, for the first week of December 2021, more than 99% of circulating SARS-CoV-2 variants were Delta variants. Since that date, the number of infections with the Omicron variant is increasing significantly. Studies are currently in process to understand how easily it might be transmitted and the effectiveness of current diagnostic tests, vaccines, and therapeutics against this variant. First reported cases of Omicron variant infection showed mild symptoms, and symptoms would be expected to be milder in vaccinated persons and those with previous SARS-CoV-2 infection than in unvaccinated persons [18]. The severity of infection with the Omicron variant will become better understood as additional cases are identified and investigated.

In the present study, Omicron variant was confirmed by molecular diagnosis (RT-PCR). Screening for the suggested presence of Omicron VOC can be performed by identifying S gene target failure (SGTF) [19]. Rapid survey of omicron variant is based on the screening for S-gene target failures in a polymerase chain reaction (PCR)-based diagnostic assays. The Omicron genome (lineage BA.1) contains the S gene deletion at positions 69–70 that are widely used in PCR tests [20]. In the case of Omicron, both the N and ORF1ab genes are detected (with Ct values <=30) but the S gene is not. The variant identification is confirmed by genomic sequencing. The rapid emergence of the SARS-CoV-2 Omicron variant confirms the importance of using genome sequencing systems along with the PCR detections currently used. It indicates the importance of information-sharing among global public health partners.

Availability of data and materials

The sequence has been deposited in the Global Initiative on Sharing All Influenza Data (GISAID) database with accession ID: EPI_ISL_7952324.



Global Initiative on Sharing All Influenza Data


Reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction


Reference laboratory for University Hospitals


Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2


S gene target failure


Virus pathogen database and analysis resource


Variants of concern

B. altitudinis :

Bacillus altitudinis


Carboxymethyl cellulose


Carboxymethyl cellulase


Filter-paper enzyme


Gyrase B subunit


RNA polymerase β subunit


Sugarcane Bagasse


Pyruvate carboxylase


  1. Huang C, Wang Y, Li X et al (2020) Clinical features of patients infected with 2019 novel coronavirus in Wuhan, China. Lancet 395:497–506.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Chan JFW, Kok KH, Zhu Z et al (2020) Genomic characterization of the 2019 novel human-pathogenic coronavirus isolated from a patient with atypical pneumonia after visiting Wuhan. Emerg Microbes Infect 9:221–236.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Fan Z, Wu W, Hildebrand A et al (2012) A novel biochemical route for fuels and chemicals production from cellulosic biomass. PLoS One 7:1–8.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Andrew R, Nick L, Oliver P, Wendy B, Jeff B, Alesandro C et al (2020) Preliminary Genomic Characterisation of an Emergent SARS-CoV-2 Lineage in the UK Defined by a Novel Set of Spike Mutations-SARS-CoV-2 Coronavirus/NCoV-2019 Genomic Epidemiology-Virological. Virological Org 1–9

  5. Toovey OTR, Harvey KN, Bird PW, Tang JWTWT (2021) Introduction of Brazilian SARS-CoV-2 484K.V2 related variants into the UK. J Infect 82:e23.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Wu F, Wang A, Liu M, Wang Q, Chen J, Xia S, et al (2020) Neutralizing antibody responses to SARS-CoV-2 in a COVID-19 recovered patient cohort and their implications.

  7. Tracking SARS-CoV-2 variants. Accessed 30 Jan 2022

  8. Classification of Omicron (B.1.1.529): SARS-CoV-2 Variant of Concern. Accessed 10 Jan 2022

  9. Thakur V, Kanta Ratho R (2021) OMICRON (B.1.1.529): A new SARS-CoV-2 variant of concern mounting worldwide fear. J Med Virol.

  10. Gao S, Guo H, Luo G (2021) Omicron variant (B.1.1.529) of SARS-CoV-2, a global urgent public health alert! J Med Virol.

  11. Kriegova E, Fillerova R, Kvapil P (2020) Direct-RT-qPCR Detection of SARS-CoV-2 without RNA Extraction as Part of a COVID-19 Testing Strategy: From Sample to Result in One Hour. Diagnostics (Basel, Switzerland) 10.

  12. Alcoba-Florez J, Gil-Campesino H, Artola DGM de, et al (2020) Sensitivity of different RT-qPCR solutions for SARS-CoV-2 detection. Int J Infect Dis 99:190.

  13. Lu R, Zhao X, Li J et al (2020) Genomic characterisation and epidemiology of 2019 novel coronavirus: implications for virus origins and receptor binding. Lancet 395:565–574.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Phan T (2020) Genetic diversity and evolution of SARS-CoV-2. Infect Genet Evol 81:104260.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Bolger AM, Lohse M, Usadel B (2014) Trimmomatic: A flexible trimmer for Illumina sequence data. Bioinformatics 30:2114–2120.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Pickett BE, Greer DS, Zhang Y et al (2012) Virus Pathogen Database and Analysis Resource (ViPR): A Comprehensive Bioinformatics Database and Analysis Resource for the Coronavirus Research Community. Viruses 4:3209.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Aksamentov I, Roemer C, Hodcroft EB, Neher RA (2021) Nextclade: clade assignment, mutation calling and quality control for viral genomes. J Open Source Softw 6:3773.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Frequently asked questions for the B.1.1.529 mutated SARS-CoV-2 lineage in South Africa - NICD. Accessed 10 Jan 2022

  19. European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (2021) Methods for the detection and characterisation of SARS-CoV-2 variants - first update. Accessed 10 Jan 2022

  20. Public Health England (2021) SARSCoV2 variant s of concern variants under investigation England. Technical briefing 33. Accessed 10 Jan 2022

Download references




This work was supported by the Reference Laboratory For Egyptian University Hospitals.

Author information




All authors listed have made a substantial, direct, and intellectual contribution to the work and approved it for publication.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Mohamed G. Seadawy.

Ethics declarations

Ethics approval and consent to participate

This study was approved by the Central committee for ethics of scientific research, Supreme Council of Egyptian university hospitals 2021.

Consent for publication

Not applicable.

Competing interests

The authors declare no conflict of interest. The authors declare that they have no known competing financial interests or personal relationships that could have appeared to influence the work reported in this paper.

Additional information

Publisher’s Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Rights and permissions

Open Access This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Ismail, G., Abdelghaffar, H., Seadawy, M.G. et al. Genome sequencing reveals existence of SARS-CoV-2 B.1.1.529 variant in Egypt. J Genet Eng Biotechnol 20, 70 (2022).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • DOI:


  • Omicron variant
  • Egypt
  • 21K
  • genome analysis