Coronavirus | CSIR-CCMB awaits ICMR approval to scale up COVID-19 testing three-fold with dry swabs

A woman reacts as a healthcare worker takes a swab from her to test for COVID-19 in Kolkata on July 10, 2020.

A woman reacts as a healthcare worker takes a swab from her to test for COVID-19 in Kolkata on July 10, 2020.   | Photo Credit: REUTERS

CSIR-Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) has asserted that the the current testing capacity of two lakh tests a day across the country can be quickly scaled to six lakh tests a day by collecting dry swabs from patients for safer, cheaper and faster COVID-19 testing.

"This method has been validated and tested by two other institutions - Centre for DNA Fingerprinting and Diagnostics (CDFD) here and Indian Institute of Science Education & Research (IISER), Berhampur, Odisha. We had approached the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) for approval in June first week and an appropriate advisory is expected soon which will help in getting more tests done at much lower costs giving us a better chance at managing the pandemic ," said Director Rakesh Mishra on Tuesday.

In an exclusive interaction, he said that a shift towards dry swab testing will immediately entail a saving of upto ₹75 crore a day! The Director explained that the current methods of RT-qPCR testing are done in the form of swabs from samples received in Viral Transport Medium (VTM) followed by RNA extraction and RT-qPCR.

Instead of this, scientists of CSIR-CCMB have generated a simplified protocol for this test where dry swabs are collected and directly used for RT-qPCR. "This method has been established to have no loss of sensitivity and is on par with the current gold standard of testing," he affirmed.

Dry swabs will also enable the collection and transport process to be simpler and safer as there is no liquid sample handling and leakage and fear of contamination for the persons handling the sample in highly secure BSL-3 lab facilities. "It is also faster by about five hours as there is no RNA extraction and VTM containing tube handling. Further, it is cheaper too as there is no RNA extraction and no VTM, correspondingly less manpower is needed", said Dr.Mishra.

A major bottleneck for testing is the process of RNA extraction because of the time involved and trained manpower constraints. Removal of this step can improve the capacity of testing by about threefold, without any additional inputs.

Dr. Mishra pointed out that as per the current situation, the country could well be testing upto two lakh people per day for the next six months and it could cost upto ₹5,400 crore, however, the dry swab method will allow testing of more than six lakh people per day at a cost of ₹3,740 crore for the same six month period.

"Importantly, we need not spend any extra resources in training or equipment. A quick approval will save a lot of resources," he reiterated. Rates have been calculated at ₹1,100-2,250 per test by the current RT-qPCR method which takes 15-24 hours whereas the simplified CSIR-CCMB method, taking five-six hours only, will cost ₹350 in comparison, saving anywhere between ₹750-₹1,900 a test.

Related Topics
Recommended for you
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | Aug 10, 2020 2:57:02 PM |

Next Story