CCMB to speed up COVID test results

Paramedical staff taking people for COVID testing at TVVP District Hospital in Kondapur on Thursday.

Paramedical staff taking people for COVID testing at TVVP District Hospital in Kondapur on Thursday.  

The agonising wait for more than a day for COVID-19 test results is likely to come to an end soon with the CSIR-Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) coming up with an alternative method of testing, where the results would be quicker and more samples could be tested in one go.

ICMR permission sought

“We have sought permission from the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) to allow us to test dry throat swabs in place of the existing ones that are transported in Viral Transfer Medium (VTM) liquid. This will require less packing and can be safely transported. In addition, we suggested skipping RNA isolation step so that the sample can go straight to RT-PCR equipment to get results within hours. Our director general Shekhar Mande, too is pursuing with the regulatory authorities concerned to get this cleared,” disclosed CCMB director Rakesh Mishra.

“We have noticed that currently the samples are being sent in several layers of packing for abundant caution with several tapes that is taking a few hours of our precious time to unpack and catalogue before they can be processed further,” he pointed out, in an exclusive interaction.

“While delays in declaring the results of swab test samples could be multi-fold, including shortage of trained manpower, the test usually takes 12-14 hours and a maximum of 18 hours. So, normally, the test results should be out within a day. CCMB has been testing around 500 samples sent to its lab by government authorities and this can be scaled up to 1,500 if the ICMR nod comes and results can be given in 5-10 hours,” the director explained.

“Time has to come to adopt testing of dry swab samples to increase testing of samples for detection of COVID-19, both by public and private labs. We had earlier advocated pool sample testing where five samples could be tested in one go but we have gone past that stage as it is effective only when the virus positive ratio is less than 5% of samples being tested,” Dr. Mishra said.

There is “nothing to be alarmed” about ‘social transmission’ and “we should be taking it in our stride and go for more testing so that we can trace and contain the virus”. There is also nothing wrong about private labs coming into the picture as it only enhances the testing abilities which is the need of the hour. But, qualitative training and following strict protocols should be ensured, he observed.

Any planned lockdowns can be pinned down to specific localities with restrictions on movement of people based on the spread of virus which can be known only by largescale testing, affirmed the director.

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Printable version | Aug 14, 2020 7:09:32 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Hyderabad/ccmb-to-speed-up-covid-test-results/article31974196.ece

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