SRINAGAR: Microbiology Department of Government Medical College, Srinagar runs a Covid-19 testing facility since March 14, 2020, and it conducts is 1500 tests daily, Dr Anjum Farhana, its head has revealed.

An expecting mother is waiting with her swab for mandatory Covid-19 test. KL Image Bilal Bahadur

The lab is a state of the art negative pressure lab BSL level (3), which was initially sanctioned and made functional in late 2017 as a molecular lab for influenza.

Proper sampling along with good lab practices will give accuracy of results, she said, insisting these labs are designed to work on organisms causing serious disease via inhalation and prevent infection to health care workers.

“Our lab is functional 24×7 and with a capacity to do nearly 1500 tests per day. We have till date tested nearly 3 lakh samples”, Dr Anjum said.

There are 2 types of tests for Covid 19, diagnostic and antibody tests.

Policeman stands guard near a Mobile Covid-19 Testing van in Srinagar on Sunday 10 May 2020. The facility has been converted into a quarantine facility for Kashmiris, who returned home after being stranded for almost three weeks at different places across India. Till the test results are received, they will have to undergo necessary quarantine. KL Image: Bilal Bahadur.

Diagnostic tests include RT-PCR tests and Rapid Antigen Tests. “Diagnostic tests tell us whether or not the person has an active infection. Our lab primarily does RT -PCR tests only”, she said. “We intend to increase our capacity by more than 2000 tests per day, once the fully automated analyser Cobas-6800 is received. The Cobas-6800 is a sophisticated machine which minimises contamination and risk of infection to HCW and tests 1200 samples in 24 hours.”

This facility is also catering to associated hospitals including SMHS, Lalla Ded, Bone and Joint, Super Speciality, Kashmir Nursing Home, GB Panth, other hospitals of district Srinagar and District Bandipora.

However, she admitted that samples received are 3 to 4 times more than previously received by the lab, which increases work pressure but the department is enhancing the capacity with additional staff in the Covid Testing Lab.

Dr Anjum Farhana, heads the Microbiology Department of the GMC, Srinagar.

Samples received by our lab are mainly nasopharyngeal swab in a Viral Transport Medium. Samples are transported from collection sites in cool boxes containing dry ice and transported as soon as possible to our lab.

“In case of delay of more than 72-hours they may be kept at -70 Degree Centigrade,” the microbiologist informed.

Apart from taking the sample properly, timing is also important and chances of detection of the virus being high within the first four days of being symptomatic. In case of close contact, a sample is to be taken between the 5th and the 10th day of exposure.

“Combination of RTPCR, clinical features along with CT findings help in the management of patients,” said Dr Anjum.

One of the microbiologists having a quick rest after the night long session of testing the swabs collected by the hospital authorities.

“Remember if you test positive it means you are infected now and can transmit the infection to others”, she said, insisting, “If you test negative you can still get infected and have to take precautions to prevent from getting infected”.

PT-PCR test, however, will not tell you if you have been previously infected. “This can be known by Antibody tests,” she said

Regarding the delay in results, Dr Anjum gave a number of reasons including excessive samples received – beyond the capacity of the lab, sudden failure of machines due to excessive workload and due to lockdown in other states, reagents and other consumables coming from outside states may get delayed.

Besides, she said that the Microbiology department is not only responsible for providing individual Covid results but also involved in data uploading and sending it to all concerned every 24 hours.

Moreover, ICMR data is also being uploaded onto the ICMR portal 24/7. This, she said, is done by a closely coordinated team of consultants, senior residents and DEO.

“Our lab is an ICMR VDRL lab. Its quality of testing is closely regulated through EQAS. Five per cent samples are also being sent via SKIMS to NCDC for genomic sequencing,” she said.

Dr Anjum was training in March 2020, under the DHR ICMR National Level Training programme, which was conducted regarding SAR COV 2 sampling and transportation. Then, she imparted training to staff to train health care workers at the district level besides the HCW of various associated hospitals.

(This feature wasrelaesed by DIPR-JK)


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