NEW DELHI :
As new Covid-19 cases continue to spike, Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has allowed all national research laboratories including those under the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) to conduct testing for the new coronavirus.
The decision was taken late on Thursday, after the total number of infections crossed 2,000 in the country. At least 53 people have succumbed to the outbreak in India so far.
CSIR is India’s premier national research and development organization which operates a network of over 38 laboratories across the country. Apart from CSIR, the medical research body said that it has no objection to the government laboratories operational under the Department of Biotechnology (DBT), Department of Science and Technology (DST) and Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) to carry out Covid-19 testing.
“Our laboratories are fully- capable and well-equipped to conduct these tests. All this while, we had been getting ready to start the process, and with ICMR’s decision, we can start the testing right away. It is a time, when all of us should do whatever we can. It is a welcome step," said CSIR Director General, Dr Shekhar Mande, adding that each of the laboratories can do at least 300-400 tests a day.
Out of total 38 CSIR laboratories, at least 15 have the necessary equipments to start the testing, leading with Hyderabad-based Centre for Cellular & Molecular Biology (CCMB), one of country’s premier molecular lab. Scientists say, CSIR’s institute in CSIR- North East Institute of Science and Technology, formerly(RRL) , Jorhat would be crucial to address the testing needs in the north-east.
However, ICMR also said that it would not provide diagnostic kits/reagents to the laboratories and they may use commercial kits, validated by US-Food and Drugs Administration (FDA), EU-CEA or the National Institute of Virology (NIV), Pune.
“Procuring testing kits or other resources would not be a problem. Many of our laboratories have multiple RT-PCR machines and the necessary expertise to conduct these tests. Some of our laboratories had already been approached by the state health departments to start testing," said Dr Anurag Aggarwal, Director of CSIR-IGIB, New Delhi.
Since, all these research Institutes are of eminence under other research organizations, ICMR said it would not conduct any site assessment.
The approvals to start testing would be accorded only by the Secretary of the concerned departments as deemed appropriate. “Responsibility of these laboratories will lie with the concerned departments and not ICMR," stated the notification.
ICMR also stated that laboratories can undertake testing of a sample which is referred by the State health officials or the Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme (IDSP) and would be required to provide real-time reports to the IDSP for timely initiation of contact tracing.