CFTRI ready to carry out COVID-19 tests through dry swab method

It is two to three times faster than the conventional RT-PCR method, and is economical also

Published - May 17, 2021 09:43 pm IST - MYSURU

The CSIR-Central Food Technological Research Institute (CFTRI) in Mysuru is ready to carry out COVID-19 tests through the newly developed dry swab RT-PCR method that promises quicker results, paving the way for ramping up testing when the rate of infection is high.

The method, developed by Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB), Hyderabad, which is also a constituent of Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), had been approved by Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR).

CFTRI Director Sridevi Singh told The Hindu that it was two to three times faster than the conventional RT-PCR method. “It is an easier way of testing. It is economical also.”

CFTRI presently is presently carrying out COVID-19 tests on the swabs collected from Mysuru and surrounding areas through the RT-PCR method. The institute has conducted more than 2.25 lakh tests since the pandemic began. The tests, which had reached 2,000 per day during the second wave, had been reduced to around 800 per day since the last one week.

“The conventional method, which takes around three hours, involves RNA extraction. But, this step (RNA extraction) is eliminated in the dry swab method”, she said adding that testing centres now use automated RNA extraction equipment and any breakdown in the machinery delays the testing process further.

Dr Singh said the dry swab method incurs less cost. “We need extensive consumables for RNA extraction. We don’t need them in the new method.”

Director General of CSIR Shekar C. Mande has already written to the Chief Secretaries of all the States including Karnataka on dry swab RT-PCR tests. Maharashtra has adopted the method and CFTRI’s sister laboratory, National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) in Nagpur, is using the new method regularly, carrying out about 50,000 tests so far, Dr. Singh said.

The personnel in the testing facility at the CFTRI in Mysuru have already been trained by the CCMB staff. “If the State authorities approve it, we can also switch over. We can do more tests.”

CFTRI has already carried out a validation exercise of the dry swab tests. “We tested around 70 samples and the results had a good correlation with the traditional method.”

Dip-stick test

The CFTRI is also in the process of developing a dip-stick test for COVID-19. The method, which is still in the development stage, uses saliva on a strip for testing. “Through this method, it is possible to test at home. As of now, we have received encouraging results”, Dr. Singh said adding that the CFTRI has found an industry partner, which is working on commercialisation of the method with necessary regulatory approval.

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