Home / Science / Health /  COVID-19: ICMR approves dry swab testing, 'game changing technology', says CCMB

The Indian Council of Medical Research has approved a dry swab RNA- extraction-free testing method for the COVID-19 virus developed by CSIR-Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, CCMB said.

In the conventional testing method, nasopharyngeal or oropharyngeal swab samples collected by sample collection centres are transported to testing centres, sometimes even hundreds of kilometres away. The samples are generally placed in a liquid called Viral Transport Medium (VTM). To avoid leakage, they are packed heavily that adds on to sample processing times at both the sample collection and testing centres.

CCMB researchers found that VTM can be totally avoided and dry swab technique also does not require RNA extraction and can be directly used for RT-PCR testing with sensitivity and specificity similar to the current gold standard.

This method has now received ICMR approval for use in settings where automated RNA extraction is not available, said the research centre.

"RNA extraction, even with automation, takes four hours for roughly 500 samples. VTM and RNA extraction both add a significant burden on money and time required for mass testing for coronavirus," said Rakesh Mishra, Director, CCMB.

"We believe the technique's merit holds for all kinds of settings and has the potential of bringing down the costs and time of testing by 40-50%. It is a game changing technology as with the existing infrastructure, the throughput of COVID-19 screening can be enhanced several fold with immediate effect while, at the same time, making the whole process safer," Mishra said.

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