With a view to prepare for any worst-case scenario as Indian battles to contain the COVID-19 outbreak, the ICMR on Monday said it is planning several interventions which include scaling-up testing capacity to one lakh tests/day in the coming months.
The ICMR has approved over 200 labs (both public and private) for COVID-19 testing through-PCR machines.
“We are also identifying other government and private labs, research institutes and medical colleges which have the capability and infrastructure to undertake COVID-19 testing and are in conversation with them to include them in the testing network,” the apex health research body said.
The ICMR is also considering other interventions such as moving to 24×7 working model at existing labs, coordinating with states to increase manpower for various functions including data-entry, re-deploying automated and manual-PCR machines already in the country to aid COVID-19 testing effort, and optimising in-lab processes such as RNA extraction to reduce turnaround time between sample receipt and testing, it said.
“With a view to prepare for the worst-case scenario, ICMR has taken a number of steps towards enhancing the number of labs, machines and test kits required to test suspected cases across the country. Some of these interventions are being actively considered to scale-up testing capacity to 1 lakh tests/day in upcoming months,” it said.
As on April 6 at 3.45 pm, ICMR has tested 96, 264 samples of which 3,718 were found positive for SARS-CoV-2.
A total of 136 government laboratories and 56 private laboratories have been made functional and are currently engaged in the testing procedure. These laboratories have testing capacity of 18,000 tests per day, the ICMR statement said. In addition to this, two high throughput machine Cobass 6800 have been made functional which can test 1400 samples at a time.
The ICMR has prepared a data portal for streamlining the data collection from all the laboratories on a real-time basis, it said.
Besides, the ICMR has procured 10 lakh Reverse Transcription-Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) kits used for diagnosis and seven depots have been established for uninterrupted supply of reagents across the nation for efficient distribution to government testing laboratories.
“ICMR has a constant vigil on the national testing strategy in line with the current trend of the outbreak. Till now, 19 non-US FDA EUA/CE IVD real-time-PCR kits have been validated of which 05 have been recommended based on 100% concordance with positive and negative samples,” the body said, adding the recommendations have been shared with the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation(CDSCO) for taking it forward.
Apart from this, antibody-based tests have also been made available for sero-surveillance.
“However, antibody tests are not suitable to diagnose live COVID-19 infections,” it said adding it has released advisory to start rapid antibody based blood test for COVID-19 as a strategy for areas reporting clusters (containment zone) and in large migration gatherings/evacuees centres. ICMR has validated and recommended seven such test kits for use.
“ICMR has validated and recommended TruenatTM beta CoV test on TruelabTM workstation as a screening test. “All positives through this platform will need to be reconfirmed by confirmatory assays for SARS-CoV-2. All negatives may not be processed further. Currently, there are nearly 300 TruelabTM workstation already deployed in country and it will be utilized for the testing,” it said.