Madhya Pradesh is fast running out of automated RNA extraction kits and staring at a Statewide shortage in two to three days time in the wake of glitches in the supply chain. The kits, having twice as much output than manual ones, are used in the process to test a sample for COVID-19.
The laboratory in the State’s hardest hit city, Indore, which accounts for 66% of the tally, will run out of the automated column-based RNA (ribonucleic acid) extraction kits today. Whereas in Bhopal, the AIIMS and the Gandhi Medical College’s laboratories will run out of stock in another day. Kits at the Bhopal Memorial Hospital and Research Centre will last for two days, as will those with the Jabalpur laboratory.
The other six laboratories across the State have low testing rates, according to the State Health Department.
“We have enough machines. In fact, we can even get more of them. But we have no testing kits,” Health Minister Narottam Mishra told Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare Harsh Vardhan during a videoconference. “If you could send them as early as possible, it will be a great relief to us,” Mr. Mishra added.
“We have a problem on the supply side,” said S. Dhanaraju, officer on special duty with the Madhya Pradesh Public Health Services Corporation Limited. “As a result, the testing output is affected. Unsteady supply is expected to continue till the end of this month,” he added. The manual bead-based RNA isolation kits can be used for 12 samples in an hour, whereas the automated ones can be used for 24.
The vendors were mostly in Germany or the United States, both badly affected by the pandemic, Mr. Dhanaraju explained. “Companies are not supplying. Moreover, there is demand for kits all over the world. For the bead-based kits being manufactured domestically, procurement of raw material is hit as many components are imported,” he said. The State had placed an order for 1.16 lakh RNA isolation kits, of which it had received just 23,000 kits so far.
The manual extraction kits were more or less available, said Ruby Khan, the official managing laboratories for COVID-19 in the State. “We initially had 5,000-10,000 automated isolation kits. We have run out of stock now,” said Ms. Khan, who is a deputy director in the State’s Directorate of Health Services.
Testing rates will fall substantially if Indore, where deaths had climbed to 55, does not receive the automated kits soon, said Akash Tripathi, Indore Divisional Commissioner. “We had tested 428 samples on Friday using them. But with manual ones, it will be close to only 200 a day. We had substantially ramped up our testing capacity over time. But we can’t do anything without kits,” he said.
An official at the Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Medical College Indore said the availability of RT-PCR kits was not a problem so far.
COVID-19 cases in Indore surged past 1,000 on Thursday night as 84 new cases were detected on the day.
So far, the city has recorded 1,029 cases. As many as 82, or 8% of the patients had recovered from the illness, said Pravin Jadia, Indore Chief Medical and Health Officer.
Although the case growth rate in the city has declined in the past few days, Thursday saw a renewed surge after April 16, when 244 cases were detected in a day with a backlog of test reports pouring in.
According to the State Health bulletin of April 24, Ujjain had reported that 11 of the city’s 102 patients, or 10.7% of all cases, had succumbed to the illness. The toll has surpassed that of Bhopal, the capital city having four times its population. In other neighbouring districts of Indore, six patients have died in Khargone and six in Dewas. The State has recorded 92 deaths and 1,846 cases so far.