India has indigenously developed key ingredients used in covid-19 test kits, after its entry into the manufacture of personal protective equipment (PPE) and ventilators.
The two critical items—fluorescence probes and polymerase chain reaction (PCR) mix—were developed by VNIR Biotechnologies Pvt. Ltd, a spinoff by Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research, an autonomous institute under the department of science & technology (DST).
A typical PCR-based test kit has three critical components—oligos, enzymes and molecular probes. The first two are partly available in India, while the probes are fully imported.
Even though the immediate application of the probes is covid-19 testing, they are also used in molecular diagnostic tests for several diseases.
“The probes for RT-PCR based covid tests is an example of leveraging our basic science knowledge for the development of critical new products that are being imported. Nor is this knowledge limited to one particular virus, but would help us rapidly develop molecular diagnosis in the future for other viruses as well,” professor Ashutosh Sharma, secretary, DST, said in a statement issued by the science and technology ministry.
The probes and PCR mix were developed by professor T. Govindaraju and Dr Meher Prakash, co-founders of VNIR, which was incubated at Karnataka government’s Bangalore Bio-innovation Centre. There is no Indian company making these molecular probes, Govindaraju said.
The ministry statement said that molecular diagnostic tests used to be limited to research laboratories or for limited applications. Covid-19 has presented a unique problem that the finest level of molecular diagnostic test has to be performed almost at a complete population level if needed.
The development of key ingredients reduces India’s import dependence and may also help bring down covid-19 testing costs. Last month, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) wrote to states to reduce charges of covid-19 testing in private laboratories.
Meanwhile, covid-19 cases continue to rise. As on Sunday, India has recorded 867,2225 coronavirus cases, though the number of patients recovering is also rising.
In the past 24 hours, a total of 19,235 patients were cured of covid-19, resulting in the cumulative total number of recovered cases rising to 546,379 on Sunday. The recovery rate has presently improved to 62.93%, and the recovered cases exceed active cases by 248,516, the Union health ministry said in a statement.
Present health infrastructure for the covid affected includes 1,370 Dedicated Covid Hospitals (DCH), 3,062 Dedicated Covid Health Centres (DCHC) and 10,334 Covid Care Centres (CCC).
For the successful operation of these facilities, the central government has so far provided 12.23 million PPE kits, 22.33 million N95 masks, and 21,685 ventilators to various states/Union territories and central institutions, the government said.
“We have ramped up the public healthcare infrastructure across the country to combat covid-19. As we proceed further into Unlock 2.0, it is critical to ensure that all of us rely on the ‘social vaccine—Do Gaj ki Doori’ and each one of us must follow covid appropriate behaviour,” said Union health minister Harsh Vardhan. – Livemint