Faster coronavirus testing can scale up the test capacity by threefold.

Faster coronavirus testing can scale up the test capacity by threefold.

Current RT-qPCR (Real-Time Polymerase Quantitative Chain Reaction) testing is conducted in the form of samples taken from Viral Transport Medium (VTM) followed by RNA extraction and RT-qPCR. CSIR-CCMB (Council of Scientific and Industrial Research-Center for Cellular and Molecular Biology) has developed a simplified protocol for this test where dry swabs are collected and directly used for RT-qPCR. This method has been proven to have no loss of sensitivity and is in line with the existing gold test standard.

In view of this simplification, the process becomes safer as there is no liquid sample handling and leakage and fear of contamination for persons handling the sample at BSL-3 (Biosafety Level) facilities, says Dr. Rakesh Mishra, Director of CSIR-CCMB (Council of Science and Industrial Research-Center for Cellular and Molecular Biology).

This process, Dry Swab Direct RT-qPCR, is under consideration with the ICMR and correct advice is expected soon, which will allow us to carry out further tests at a much lower cost and give us a better chance of managing the pandemic. “India is doing 2 lakh tests per day as more than that will require extra funds, setup of test labs and, more importantly trained manpower, which is not there. If our method is used, we can triple that capacity within (and less than) currently used resources (manpower, labs, and even the money),” said Dr Mishra.