Bengal seeks to borrow RT-PCR machines from varsities

West Bengal govt seeks to borrow RT-PCR machines for COVID-19 test from state-run varsities

People wait in a long queue to collect food from volunteers during ongoing COVID-19 lockdown in Kolkata, Thursday, April 30, 2020. (PTI Photo)

The West Bengal government has sought to borrow from three-state-run varsities 'real-time polymerase chain reaction' (RT-PCR) machines which can help in the detection and study of novel coronavirus.

The RT-PCR machines, with the help of a nuclear energy-driven method, can trace specific genetic material from any pathogen, including a virus, Dr Abhijit Chowdhury, member of a state-constituted task force on COVID-19, said.

Scientists can get to see the results almost immediately, Chowdhury said.

"We have requested Calcutta University, Jadavpur University and Burdwan University to lend us RT-PCR machines, and received encouraging responses from them. The equipment will be used for lab tests in select few centres.

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"The state cannot procure the equipment from outside in a short time. It will also incur huge expenses..." he said.

Confirming that Jadavpur University has received a request from the panel, Vice Chancellor Prof Suranjan Das said the varsity will extend all cooperation to the state government in its fight against the pandemic.

"I got a letter from the government yesterday. There was also a phone call. Arrangements are being made to send the machines available at our lab," Das said.

Pro-VC Chiranjib Bhattacharya, however, said a decision on the number of machines to be lent out would be taken after a discussion with research scholars.

"We are positive about helping the government but the ongoing research activities cannot be entirely stopped. We will do whatever is possible," he said.


The Calcutta University, too, has similar testing equipment at two of its laboratories.

"Preliminary discussion (with the government) is going on," CU VC Sonali Chakraborty said.

Asked why the machines were not pressed into service so far, another member of the COVID-19 panel said, "With the number of cases on the rise, we were trying to figure out how to mobilise our internal resources. It then occurred to us that we can borrow the RT-PCR machines from our premier institutes on loan to cope with the situation."

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