The Indian Council of Medical Research National Institute of Virology (ICMR-NIV) has completed tests on 19 samples so far and ruled out the presence of the 2019 novel coronavirus. 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.
“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.
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