FICCI applauds ICMR strategy for calibrated ramping up of the covid-19 testing
New Delhi: During the FICCI webinar on ‘Role of Testing in Unlocking India’, organized on the fourth day of FICCI’s Virtual Healthcare & Hygiene Expo (VHHE) 2020, industry applauded the efforts of ICMR in ramping up COVID-19 testing facilities across the country and adopting new strategies to curb the spread of virus.
Dr Nivedita Gupta, Senior Scientist, Department of Epidemiology & Communicable Diseases, ICMR, shared the entire journey of ICMR, the apex medical research body, that has been at the forefront of the COVID-19 response. Although, the Department of Health Research, had prepared a network of 106 labs for viral research following the SARS of 2009, the only lab that was capable of doing the viral diagnosis at the time of COVID outbreak was in Pune. Today, the country has over 1000 facilities equipped to do the specialised molecular diagnostic testing. This has been done through strategic and appropriate steps and extensive training and capacity building of human resources across the labs and medical colleges.
Highlighting the strategy of ICMR in increasing the scope of testing, Dr Gupta mentioned that in the recent testing guidelines issued by the nodal body, three testing technologies are being used including the gold standard RT-PCR tests, the newly inducted antigen test and the IgG antibody test. She clarified that whereas the RT-PCR and antigen tests should be used for diagnosis of the disease, IgG antibody should be used for sero-surveillance.
Answering the question from the virtual audience, Dr Gupta said, “There is no direct relation between the severity of the illness in the disease and the viral load in the patient’s body. There are cases where it has been found that even the asymptomatic patient’s have high viral load than a severely ill patient of COVID-19.”
FICCI Whitepaper on ‘Economical, Accurate and Scalable COVID-19 Testing Solutions’ was also released during the webinar. The paper gives some keen insights into seroprevalence studies with diagnostic testing, and how they impact COVID-19 management investments and plans. It will help to base our pandemic management strategies and future initiatives as the country unlocks.
Dr Shravan Subramanyam, Co-Chair, FICCI Medical Devices Committee & Managing Director, Roche Diagnostics India who moderated the FICCI session said, “India needs to focus on technology agnostic solutions that offer the best clinical outcomes (e.g. sensitivity and specificity) to measure exposure and potential immune response with SARS CoV-2 antibody tests.”
Mr Suresh Vazirani, Chairman & Managing Director, Transasia Bio-Medicals Ltd, said, “We are living through historical times, after a decade from now, these days will seem very significant. There has been a tremendous response from government, private sector as well as entrepreneurs.” He also appreciated the newly launched I-mobile lab, which has been developed indigenously in just one month’s time. The aim of the lab is to cover all 5650 Talukas (each taluka has 200 villages), by launching around 500 mobile labs.
Dr Ravi Gaur, COO, Oncquest Laboratories Ltd. stated that it is important to understand which test- PCR, Lab based Serology or Antigen tests, is relevant at what time, since all tests have a different purpose. It is even more important to understand the specificity and sensitivity of the tests. He highlighted that Lab based Serology, can readily help in expanding the scale of testing immediately, as most of the players in the country have solutions available with them, which need to be utilised.
Mr Narendra Varde, General Manager and Country Head, Abbott Diagnostics India said, “The quality and accuracy of a test is very important along with the specificity and sensitivity of the test”. He also highlighted the need of a collective efforts of industry, government, and the society in the fight against this pandemic. Mentioning the importance of IgG antibody tests, he stated that it can be used in minimizing the anxiety of the individuals in a containment or hot spot zones.
Mr Vivek Kant Tripathi, Head- Market Access & Institution Business, Biologics, Zydus Group shared his experience of being a pharma company entering into the diagnostic business to help the nation step towards the vision of ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ in the fight against the disease. He also talked about the test developed with NIV Pune and how it will also help in understanding the disease pattern and in the development of the vaccine.
Mr Nguyen Manh Minh, Covid19 Project Director of VietA Corp; International Business Director, GS Investment joined the webinar from Vietnam and shared the experience of the south Asian country in containing the spread of the disease using a well-planned strategy of testing.