Hyderabad: A combination of different technology platforms has boosted the attempts of health authorities to expand Covid-19 testing capabilities across Telangana. While the RT-PCR and rapid antigen tests kits have played a vital role in ramping-up the Covid-19 tests, another diagnostic tool that was meant to identify tuberculosis (TB), has now come handy to diagnose SARS-CoV-2 virus, especially in underserved areas.
The innovative indigenously built diagnostic platform, Truelab, often described as laboratory-in-a-suitcase technology, which was originally deployed to diagnose TB in India, has been repurposed to detect the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
With the help of technical guidance from Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), the health authorities have now deployed Truelabs that run on TrueNat technology at government hospitals in six districts including Adilabad, Nizamabad, Gadwal, Kothagudem, Karimnagar and Medak, to detect Covid-19 disease.
The ICMR had repurposed and validated TrueNat technology in April and approved it for Covid-19 diagnosis across the country. The Cartridge Based Nucleic Acid Amplification Test (CBNAAT) platforms like TrueNat are small machines that can be fitted in suitcase and do not need an elaborate laboratory set-up or even trained microbiologists to handle swab samples from patients.
Unlike RT-PCR tests, which takes one full day to complete the tests and rapid-antigen tests that take less time for results but with lesser accuracy, the TrueNat platform is capable of analysing the patient samples and provide results within an hour, and with greater accuracy.
“In the initial days of Covid-19 pandemic, we used to transport swab samples from remote locations in Adilabad to Hyderabad for RT-PCR tests. However, with TrueNat, we are able to conduct the tests locally. Such multipurpose diagnostic tools are crucial during a pandemic,” says State Joint Director, TB, Dr A Rajesham.
Recently, the innovative TrueNat platform was mentioned in a correspondence titled ‘Innovative point-of-care molecular diagnostic test for Covid-19 in India’ in science journal The Lancet. The paper described how UK has adopted a similar technique to augment its Covid-19 testing capacity.
“A combination of different tests and testing platforms has been used to augment capacity to 1.2 million tests per day, as of Sept 25, 2020 in India. Indigenous portable Truelab workstations, previously used and recommended by WHO for tuberculosis and also deployed for detection of Nipah virus disease, are now being used for detection of SARS-CoV-2,” The Lancet correspondence said.
The WHO Chief Scientist, Dr Soumya Swaminathan, recently also tweeted about this concept of using a technology platform meant to identify multiple pathogens. “Platform technologies which can rapidly test for multiple pathogens will be useful for primary healthcare centres, to improve diagnostic capabilities,” she tweeted.
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