The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has approved the use of a swab collection method for RT-PCR tests that is said to be cheaper and more convenient.
The dry swab method, developed by the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research-Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CSIR-CCMB) under the Ministry of Science and Technology, was approved by ICMR in a November 26 advisory. The new method, as the name suggests, will eliminate the need to store swab samples in a viral transport medium (VTM); instead, the samples can be readied in a dry form for the RT-PCR test. CSIR-CCMB Director Dr Rakesh Mishra told The Indian Express that the method will save time and reduce costs when compared to a standard RT-PCR test that uses VTM and RNA extraction.
According to the ICMR advisory, considering its lower cost and quick turn-around time, the dry swab variant can be used as a screening tool in settings where automated RNA extraction is unavailable.
Dr Mishra said the new method is safer and handling time of the sample also is less. Swabs are collected in the same way and the same RT-PCR machine is used. “At times the liquid can leak and tubes can be messy also making it hazardous to handle. The new technique eliminates this and is safer to handle,” he said.
A scientist explained that the method involves addition of a chemical and enzyme buffer to dry nasal swabs, their incubation for 30 minutes at room temperature, and then heat inactivation at 98 degrees Celsius for 6 minutes.
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