Mumbai: The Maharashtra government will soon begin using tuberculosis (TB) testing machines for early diagnosis of Covid-19 patients and has selected three laboratories for this purpose, one each in Pune, Nagpur and Kolhapur.
This comes after the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) approved the use of these devices for coronavirus screening tests. However, the cartridges required by these testing units are in the process of being shipped from abroad.
Lalit Anande, medical superintendent of the TB hospital in Sewri, said it was a good call by the state government. We are already using molecular test cartridge-based nucleic acid amplification tests (CBNAATs) for diagnosis of TB patients. This test yields results in 45 minutes, so treatment of Covid patients can begin earlier, he said.
The test detects mycobacterium tuberculosis, but on customization, it will also detect the E-gene present in the RNA and the N2 gene (specific to coronavirus ) in the samples. Dr Sanjay Mukherjee, secretary, Medical Education and Drugs Department (MEDD), said, to accelerate Covid diagnosis, the ICMR has approved the use of CBNAAT technology, for which a different type of cartridge is used.
Currently, DNA extracted by this machine is used for TB testing, but now, with the new cartridges, RNA will be extracted from the machine for Covid testing and the process will be quicker, he said.
In Maharashtra, three laboratories have been selected Intermediate Reference Laboratory, Nagpur and Pune, while the other one is at RCSM government medical college, Kolhapur.
Dr Anup Yadav, head of the National Health Mission, said this machine would help increased and error-free corona testing. "They have received 5,000 cartridges, for use in the machines. It is another step forward in detecting cases and gives results in 45 minutes. At one time, four samples can be tested,” he said.
Apart from Maharashtra, Karnataka, Kerala, Jammu and Kashmir and Rajasthan are also ready to use TB machines for corona examination. Since the coronavirus is a new strain, not previously identified in humans, there is no specific drug or vaccine for its treatment. Hence faster diagnosis of patients is essential, for early treatment.