To increase the testing capacity for COVID19, the Government of India has asked the research institutes associated with different Government agencies to step-up and contribute to COVID19 testing.
Article by Dhiraj Kumar, ICGEB New Delhi
Governments all over the world are scrambling to increase their capacity to test COVID19 samples, which allows them to identify and isolate the positive cases, which could help break the cycle of infection and flatten the curve of active cases. India has witnessed a recent surge in the number of cases and currently is at the second spot in terms of total number of cases reported globally.
The ICGEB laboratories in New Delhi, India, established with the mandate to cater to the needs of the developing world in health and agricultural sectors through biotechnology research, recognised the need to expand testing capacity in the country, and decided to join the national effort in controlling the spread of the disease by actively testing hundreds of samples by real time polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) everyday.
RT-PCR is the most reliable technique currently available to confirm positive and negative cases for COVID19. RT-PCR, a widely used molecular biology technique, while a staple in all research settings it is not so common in diagnostic labs and primary/secondary care hospitals.
ICGEB, New Delhi joined the efforts recently by converting an entire floor of a biosafety lab 3 (BL3) into a COVID19 testing lab. Infectious diseases including tuberculosis are among the key areas of research in Delhi, hence staff and students were already trained to work inside a BSL3 set-up handling highly infectious materials/pathogens. To ensure a dedicated bunch of students and staff working on a daily basis to test COVID19 samples, ICGEB, New Delhi has recruited three staff and trained them for working inside a BSL3 lab.
Samples are received from Central Delhi and South Delhi health districts and reports are sent back to them within 48 hours of receiving the samples. A medical consultant specifically hired for the purpose signs the reports. In the past two weeks, we have already tested close to 1000 samples by RT-PCR and have reported ~100 positive cases.
It is important to highlight the support received from the Department of Biotechnology (DBT), Government of India, and of the Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR), Gov. of India, who are more than keen to facilitate this effort through financial support, or by supplying RNA extraction and RT-PCR kits respectively.
Finally the amazing support provided by the ICGEB administration led by the Director, financially, logistically, and morally, and the faith placed in the team involved in the testing work, to carry this out with the utmost dedication, have served as a necessary catalyst to achieve this feat. As Delhi is probably entering into its second peak, these contributions will go a long way to help contain any further impact of the pandemic.