BMCRI-IISc testing vans to leave as Covid-19 cases dip

BMCRI-IISc mobile testing vans to leave state as Covid-19 cases dip

A Covid-19 mobile testing hub at IISc. Credit: IISc

A four-unit mobile testing unit developed by researchers at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) which was officially handed over to the Bangalore Medical College and Research Institute (BMCRI) in August will be deployed elsewhere in the country. 

The move comes as Covid-19 cases have declined in Karnataka and as surges have been reported in Maharashtra. “The deployment period at the BMCRI also came to an end this month,” said Professor Sai Shiva Gorthi, of the IISc’s Department of Instrumentation and Applied Physics, who helped design the units. 

The four-unit labs, collectively dubbed Mobile Infection Testing and Reporting (MITR), consist of one Tata Force Traveller van which is designed to collect swab samples from areas and two Tata Winger vans — one to carry out RNA extraction and the other to conduct the RT-PCR test. 

On February 16, the last unit of the lab was declared operational. This is a 20-foot container set up on a BharatBenz chassis intended for storage of samples and kits, biomedical waste management and master mix preparation. It has been designated as the M4 Nodal Hub. 

The three vans can conduct 320 RT-PCR tests in a day, while the hub is said to be able to able to do three times that number, while serving as a warehouse for the vans. 

Professor Gorthi said that one or two vans will be deployed at the Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology (IGIB) to help with genomic sequencing in New Delhi. Another van will go to the Pune Knowledge Cluster. “There are plans to deploy the M4 nodal hub at the Uttarakhand Kumbh Mela,” he said. 

Arun Balasubramanian, director of an IISc-based startup ShanMukha Innovations, which manufactured the labs, said that the M4 nodal hub unit was equipped with BSL-2+ infrastructure and instruments.

The hub will likely be used to test vaccine takers for antibodies and for deployment of the Crispr Feluda test, he added. 

“While the four units were designed to work together, conditions have changed and it has been decided to deploy them individually in places where they are required,” Professor Gorthi said. 

He added that the units could return to Karnataka if the second wave of Covid-19 infections occur. 

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