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Coronavirus: Hope to shorten time to test samples, says NIV director

When contacted, Dr Priya Abraham, who recently took charge as the new director of ICMR-NIV, told The Indian Express that they hoped to shorten the time taken for testing suspected samples for novel coronavirus from six hours to three hours.

Written by Anuradha Mascarenhas | Pune |
January 28, 2020 12:37:00 am
Coronavirus pune, Coronavirus deaths, NIV pune, National Institute of Virology pune, pune news, maharashtra news, indian express news Dr Priya Abraham

The Indian Council of Medical Research National Institute of Virology (ICMR-NIV) has completed tests on 19 samples and ruled out the presence of the 2019 novel coronavirus so far. ICMR officials told The Indian Express that a total of 20 samples have been received. On Monday, six samples were sent to NIV of which five have tested negative and one sample is still in the process of testing, highly placed officials in the ICMR said.

When contacted, Dr Priya Abraham, who recently took charge as the new director of ICMR-NIV, told The Indian Express that they hoped to shorten the time taken for testing suspected samples for novel coronavirus from six hours to three hours. “Presently we are performing conventional PCRs and are awaiting the specific probes from abroad,” she said . “We have been uploading the reports within 12-18 hours so far given that the samples arrive all through the day,” Dr Abraham said.

ICMR-NIV is a national influenza centre and WHO reference laboratory for avian influenza A(H5N1) in the South East Asia region. “We are fully geared with diagnostic testing for the novel coronavirus that is rapidly evolving,” Dr Abraham said.

The virus has affected over 2,800 people and caused over 80 deaths in China. “We have to be vigilant,” Dr Abraham said, “When a sample is received by ICMR-NIV, it is tested for a slew of known respiratory pathogens like the flu virus, pandemic H1N1 and others before tests are taken up for the novel coronavirus,” she explained.

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“It is a somewhat similar virus to the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Corona virus (SARS CoV),” Dr Abraham said. State Surveillance officers from the Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme network are working closely with clinicians who have patients with the suspected symptoms. Patients who fit the case definitions are sampled and specimens are sent to ICMR-NIV at Pune. “Everyone with a cold and cough cannot be tested,” she said. “China has shared whole genome sequences. Sharing isolates that can be propagated in cell culture will enable work on the vaccine and specific therapeutics,” Dr Abraham said.

2 Pune men under observation

On Monday, health authorities said they have kept two men from Pune who had travelled to China under observation at Pune’s Naidu Hospital.

Dr Pradeep Awate, state surveillance officer, said they had encouraged people to self report after they returned from China. One of them, who is in his 50s, had travelled to Shanghai and returned to Pune on January 10. “He has mild symptoms like fever and cough and called us on his own and we have submitted his sample to NIV. He has been kept under observation at the hospital,” said Awate.

According to Pune Municipal Corporation health chief Ramchandra Hankare, another man who is in his 30s had returned to India on January 13 from a city near Wuhan. “At that time, there was no screening at Mumbai airport. But he has mild symptoms like cough and fever and on Monday, decided to contact health authorities. He has been kept under observation at the hospital and his sample will be sent to NIV,” said Hankare.

Till January 26, a total of 3,756 passengers from affected countries were screened at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport. Of these, 15 passengers hail from Maharashtra and as per guidelines their health status will be monitored for the next 28 days. Of these, five had shown symptoms of cold and cough and samples were sent to NIV. Three had tested negative for suspected novel coronavirus and two samples were sent on Monday for further tests. Four of them are at Kasturba Hospital in Mumbai and two are at Naidu Hospital.

A meeting of experts to take stock of the situation was held by Dr Pradeepkumar Vyas, state health secretary. Authorities have decided to monitor passengers who arrived in Mumbai from January 1 till 17 from China.

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