'COVID-19 sample testing lab can cost Rs 1 cr'

COVID-19 sample testing lab can cost Rs 1 cr: Microbiologists

A lab requires investment in PCR (polymerase chain reaction) machines, lab reagents and human resource, even though the test kits are an in-house ICMR product. dh file photo

The medical education minister’s announcement to build testing labs in four districts will easily cost more than Rs 4 crore (Rs 1 crore each), say microbiologists of government hospitals here.

This is because a Covid-19 testing lab requires investment in PCR (polymerase chain reaction) machines, lab reagents and human resource, even though the test kits are an in-house Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) product.

Testing labs have been proposed to be set up in Hubballi, Mangaluru, Kalaburagi and Belagavi.

The cost of a test will come down as the volume goes up. The cost to the government, of testing each Covid-19 sample, is Rs 4,500 per sample, according to ICMR. The cost of the first-step screening assay is Rs 1,500 and that of an additional confirmatory assay is Rs 3,000.

Dr Kala Yadav, in charge of the department of microbiology, Bowring and Lady Curzon Hospital, Bengaluru, said, “Right now, the kits are indigenous, which means they are built and designed in-house and supplied to all ICMR labs by National Institute of Virology, Pune. That is why all tests done at government hospitals are free of cost. There are different types of PCR machines. A regular thermocycler costs Rs 3 lakh to
Rs 4 lakh.”

But a reverse transcription PCR or a real-time PCR is expensive and costs Rs 18 lakh to Rs 25 lakh. “Even the staff working in 52 virus research and diagnostic laboratories are funded by ICMR. But just giving a thermocycler does not make for a lab. We need complete infrastructure for zoning the rooms for preparation of samples, running of samples and documentation. Each one of these rooms will require separate equipment,” Yadav said.

“The PCR machines and the other accessories and equipment can together cost up to Rs 1 crore,” she said.

Dr V Ravi, head of the department of virology, National Institute of Mental Health and Neuorosciences (Nimhans), said, “For Covid-19 testing, a minimum BSL II level lab is required and trained manpower who do flu testing. It includes a PCR machine, separate places for extraction of specimens, for processing the specimens and running the tests.”

Throat and pharyngeal swabs as well as blood samples are tested in Covid-19
suspects.

“The test kit contains material for extracting nucleic acid, PCR mix, primers and probes, and accessories like gloves, personnel protection equipment and pipette tips,” Ravi said.         

DH Newsletter Privacy Policy Get top news in your inbox daily
GET IT
Comments (+)