Free coronavirus test at BMCRI lab in Victoria Hospital

Free coronavirus test at BMCRI lab in Victoria Hospital

The virus research and diagnostic lab on the Victoria Hospital premises.

People having symptoms of coronavirus and with a recent travel history to China can get themselves tested for the deadly virus at the State-Level Virus Research and Diagnostics Laboratory (VRDL) on the Victoria Hospital campus. 

The lab will test the samples for free and all that’s required is the prescription of a valid clinician, government or private. 

The health ministry has designated the lab, along with the National Institute of Virology’s field unit in Bengaluru, for conducting tests for coronavirus after India’s first confirmed case was reported from Kerala on January 30. Until then, samples were being sent to the National Institute of Virology, Pune, and the results would take days to come. 

Dr Shantala G N, Assistant Professor, Bangalore Medical College and Research Institute (BMCRI) which runs the lab, said that few people knew about its existence. 

The VRDL can test a sample in just six to eight hours and has tested 15 of them since February 1. The National Institute of Virology, Bengaluru, has tested another 62 samples, according to Dr B G Prakash Kumar, Joint Director, Communicable Diseases, Department of Health and Family Welfare. 

The lab staff earlier worked only during the daytime but are now available round the clock, with their shifts being 8 am to 2 pm, 2 pm to 8 pm and 8 pm to 8 am. The lab is manned by three research scientists, two research assistants and two lab technicians. 

The lab does 25 different serological and molecular tests for diagnosing dengue, chikungunya and H1N1 among a host of diseases. “During the rainy season, we process 300-400 samples a week for vector-borne diseases. At other times, we process 100 samples a week. In 2019 alone, we processed 6,700 samples,” Dr Shantala explained. 

The VRDL was set up in 2016 with funds from the Indian Council of Medical Research. In four years, it has received up to Rs 5 crore for civil works, equipment, staff salaries, etc. 

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