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Neeraj Jain interview: ‘Coordinating with hospitals to develop capacity to sequence Covid 19 cases’

PATH country director (India) Neeraj Jain talks to The Indian Express on the spread of the pandemic in the country and how the organisation is helping Maharashtra tackle the Covid-19 infections.

By: Express News Service | Pune |
Updated: June 25, 2021 10:35:39 am
Neeraj Jain, Country Director (India), PATH

PATH (formerly known as Program for Appropriate Technology in Health) is an international, nonprofit global health organisation that works to accelerate health equity. The firm advises and partners with public institutions, businesses, and investors to solve pressing health challenges. Its country director (India) Neeraj Jain talks to The Indian Express on the spread of the pandemic in the country and how the organisation is helping Maharashtra tackle the Covid-19 infections.

What is being done to support the need for more testing in Maharashtra?

PATH has been supporting the state to ensure improved capacity as well the quality of testing through multiple initiatives. Through a project supported by The Rockefeller Foundation, many point-of-care solutions are being introduced, including screening using newer generation rapid diagnostic test (RDT) kits which have superior sensitivity and specificity, and point-of-care molecular diagnostics which can be placed anywhere to give a confirmatory diagnosis ultimately improving throughput and turnaround times.

We are working with district administration to demonstrate process innovations like dual swabs to ensure symptomatic people who test negative on RDTs undergo an RT-PCR test without additional effort from the patient’s end. We are also coordinating with the state to support a district hospital/medical college to develop the capacity to sequence COVID-19 cases. This will add to the state’s existing arsenal of sites that can carry out sequencing.

How are the needs of the rural population being addressed?

PATH is designing cost-effective, sustainable, and scalable testing solution packages that encourage decentralization of testing. No centralized systems can create complete equitable access. People need to be at the centre of any design. All our solutions ensure better access to testing and can be deployed at primary health centres which are required to address the needs of the rural population.

How can immediate Covid-19 response be viewed from a sustainability perspective?

We are demonstrating sustainable testing solutions that can be leveraged beyond the pandemic. The project introduces concepts of testing as well as disease agnostic platform solutions. This means that if the system established needs to be leveraged to fight a completely different disease, the platform is already created. This ensures sustainability as well as brings long-lasting improvement to the health system.

Did you see any best practices in the states? If so, what were they?

Some best practices that we have come across include using an automatic RNA extractor in the testing laboratories, dry swabs for RT-PCR testing, cloud-based laboratory information management systems, etc. These solutions optimize the time taken for testing and decrease the load on human resources.

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