ICMR to get 10 lakh RT-PCR testing kits

In addition, two high throughput machines, Cobass-6800, have been made functional which can test 1400 samples at a time.

Updated - April 07, 2020 10:26 am IST

Published - April 06, 2020 08:52 pm IST - New Delhi

A view of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) in New Delhi. File

A view of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) in New Delhi. File

The ICMR said on Monday that it is procuring 10 lakh Reverse Transcription-Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) kits used for COVID-19 diagnosis and seven depots have been established for uninterrupted supply of reagents across the nation for efficient distribution to government testing laboratories.

Also read: Coronavirus | Rapid antibody testing for hotspots first, says ICMR

Addressing the Union Health Ministry’s daily press briefing, the ICMR’s Head of Epidemiology and Communicable Diseases R. Gangakhedkar said the existing 136 government laboratories and 56 private laboratories have a testing capacity of 18,000 tests per day.

“If the labs start working in two shifts, testing capacity will go up to 25,000 but more important is to choose who you are testing,” Dr. Gangakhedkar said.

In addition, two high throughput machines, Cobass-6800, have been made functional which can test 1400 samples at a time.

The ICMR has prepared a data portal for streamlining the data collection from all the laboratories on a real-time basis, Dr. Gangakhedkar added.

“The ICMR has a constant vigil on the national testing strategy in line with the current trend of the outbreak. RT-PCR is the gold standard testing method for SARS- CoV-2 diagnosis and is in place in all the laboratories for diagnosing the disease,” he said.

Also read: Coronavirus | ICMR unveils rule book on ‘large outbreaks’

Evaluation of kits

New RT-PCR kits are being validated by four ICMR institutes for their use.

“Till now, 19 non-U.S. FDA EUA/CE IVD real-time RT-PCR kits have been validated of which five have been recommended based on 100% concordance with positive and negative samples. The recommendations have been shared with the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO) for taking it forward,” a release from the ICMR said.

Apart from this, antibody-based tests have also been made available for sero-surveillance.

The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has tested 96,264 samples for COVID-19 till 3.45 p.m. on Monday.

The ICMR has developed guidelines ranging from preparation of network of government and private laboratories to ensure efficient validation/evaluation of new diagnostic kits.

Also read: Coronavirus | More labs being opened by ICMR across country

“ICMR has validated and recommended Truenat beta CoV test on Truelab workstation as a screening test. All positives through this platform will need to be reconfirmed by confirmatory assays for SARS-CoV-2. All negatives may not be processed further. Currently, there are nearly 300 TruelabTM workstations already deployed in country and it will be utilized for the testing,” the release said.

Use of malaria drug

“We have recommended empiric use of hydroxy-chloroquine for prophylaxis of SARS-CoV-2 infection in both asymptomatic healthcare workers involved in the care of suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19 and asymptomatic house hold contacts of confirmed COVID-19 cases,’’ added Dr. Gangakhedkar.

Giving details of how ICMR is preparing for worst-case scenario it notes that interventions are being actively considered to scale-up testing capacity to one lakh tests/day in upcoming months.

“ICMR is now considering scaling-up interventions such as moving to 24x7 working model at existing labs, coordinating with states to increase manpower for various functions including data-entry, re-deploying automated and manual RT-PCR machines already in the country to aid COVID-19 testing effort, and optimising in-lab processes such as RNA extraction to reduce turnaround time between sample receipt and testing,’’ it added.

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