Andhra Pradesh

COVID-19 testing laboratory starts functioning in Anantapur

A COVID-19 testing machine RT-PCR in the virology laboratory at the Government Medical College, Anantapur on Tuesday.

A COVID-19 testing machine RT-PCR in the virology laboratory at the Government Medical College, Anantapur on Tuesday.   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Set up in Anantapur Government Medical College, it will become a regional hub for Rayalaseema; more so with Anantapur being a centre of people with foreign travel history

Now, waiting time for the results of throat swabs of COVID-19 suspects will drastically come down in Andhra Pradesh. Thanks to the testing centre - one of the four in the State - set up by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) which began functioning in Anantapur Government Medical College (AGMC) from Tuesday. It had received the first batch of 10 samples from Kurnool, and one taken locally by doctors.

“The centre here had received permission from the ICMR to perform the tests. But every result needs to be validated by the National Institute of Virology (NIV) in Pune for the next 20 days so that authenticity of the procedure is established,” AGMC Principal Myreddy Neeraja told The Hindu.

Shorter turnaround time

Here’s how the process works. From the time two throat swabs of a suspect are obtained- one through the nose and other from the mouth - and arrive at the laboratory in a cold chain (maintained at 4 degreesC., to the time the result is known, it will take four hours. However, initially, since the NIV Pune needs to validate the results online for some days, announcement could take a little longer. “After a suspects’s swab is taken, it is put in a 3 ml viral transport medium allowing the virus to grow in a 10 ml tube. Extracting the gene - RNA - of the virus from the sample is important and that needs to be fed into the Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) machine,” said Medical Scientist B. Praveena.

The other three testing laboratories in Andhra Pradesh are at Sri Venkateswara Institute of Medical Sciences (SVIMS), Kakinada and Vijayawada. In fact, the ICMR was keen on making Anantapur as the Regional Hub for COVID19 testing in Rayalaseema region.

Large foreign footfalls

The reason? Anantapur is hotspot of people with foreign travel history as it has KIA Motors India plant, Puttaparthi Sri Sathya Sai Baba ashram that draws a large number of devotees from world over - mainly Italy - and the Rural Development Trust (RDT) frequently visited by Spanish nationals and working extensively with rural communities in Anantapur and Kurnool districts.

The Testing Centre here currently has one Medical Scientist, one non-medical research scientist, along with two lab technicians and a doctor, who have undergone training for COVID-19 testing on the RT-PCR laboratory procedure at SVIMS. The Centre is likely to get two more staff members to take the load in the coming days.

Can be ramped up

“The present set-up can test between 20 and 25 samples a day and can increase the numbers slowly with additional supporting staff joining the current team, which has been tirelessly working for the last 20 days to make this centre operational,” said Microbiology Laboratory Chief G. Swarnalatha.

Initially 10 samples were sent from the NIV, Pune, for the team to get accustomed to the procedure and calibrating the machine. “Currently the laboratory is running on two shifts, and if the need arises it can run on three shifts,” added Dr. Swarnalatha.

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Printable version | Mar 30, 2020 3:25:26 PM |

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