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Health worker in PPE kit during the launch of a first-of-its-kind Spicehealth Genome Sequencing Laboratory  (ANI)
Health worker in PPE kit during the launch of a first-of-its-kind Spicehealth Genome Sequencing Laboratory (ANI)

SpiceHealth, CSIR-IGIB launch genome sequencing lab at Delhi airport

  • Portable sequencers deployed at airports and other points of entry will save time and reduce transmission risk by identification of variants within 48 hours
  • CSIR-IGIB is a constituent member of the Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium (INSACOG)

SpiceHealth and government research institute CSIR-IGIB on Thursday set up a portable testing laboratory for genome sequencing at Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International airport.

The aim of the lab is to ensure early action against new variants of coronavirus that have emerged in countries like the UK. All positive samples of international passengers landing in Delhi would be sequences at the airport.

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CSIR-IGIB is a constituent member of the Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium (INSACOG), recently announced by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

The laboratory was inaugurated by Dr VK Paul, member (health) NITI Aayog and Chairman, National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for Covid-19 (NEGVAC), in the presence of Dr Anurag Agrawal, Director of CSIR-IGIB, Ajay Singh, CMD of SpiceJet and Avani Singh, CEO of SpiceHealth.

"We have started a pilot project with SpiceHealth here at the airport to find out if we can generate the 'sequence' in less than 48 hours and inform the government in case there is a virus variant," said Anurag Agrawal.

Samples shipped to regional labs in India take around one week to do the sequencing.

India had suspended all passenger flights connecting to UK from December 23 to January 7 as a new and more contagious variant of the coronavirus emerged in the UK.

"This is a path-breaking initiative through which a sophisticated diagnostic capability has been brought to the doorstep, where it is required the most," said V K Paul, after inaugurating the lab.

Avani Singh said: "The new mutant strains of coronavirus need immediate and effective attention. Early detection will be crucial to stop the spread of new mutant viruses coming into our country."

International passengers - except the ones coming from the UK - can avoid institutional quarantine in India only when either they get Covid-negative report from a RT-PCR test done 72 hours prior to the journey or from the RT-PCR test done on arrival at the airport.

Currently, each passenger coming from the UK has to bring Covid-negative report from a sample taken 72 hours prior to the journey, then get tested again after landing in India.

Moreover, the rules of the Delhi government require all passengers from the UK - irrespective of their test result at the airport - to under seven days of institutional quarantine and seven days home quarantine.

The latest announcement from SpiceHealth, a health care company founded by the promoters of SpiceJet, comes on the backdrop of the company’s two successive first-of-its-kind initiatives.

On 23 November, SpiceHealth had successfully launched its first mobile testing facility offering the most affordable RT-PCR testing at 499. SpiceHealth is currently conducting 10,000-15,000 tests per day at its labs functioning at government requested locations around Delhi NCR.

The company has tied up with CSIR-CCMB for the task.

Earlier, SpiceHealth had also launched SpiceOxy – a compact, portable, non-invasive ventilation device, which is an effective solution for patients with mild to moderate breathing issues.

Additionally, SpiceHealth had also introduced fingertip pulse oximeter, a handy device making it easier for people to measure the oxygen level of the blood.

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