Sree Chitra Tirunal Institute for Medical Sciences and Technology (SCTIMST), Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, is an autonomous institute under the Department of Science and Technology (DST), Government of India (GOI) have developed two types of nasal and oral swabs and viral transport medium for COVID-19 testing.Key Points:
i.About Swabs: ChitraEmBed flocked nylon swabs (co-developed with Mallelil Industries Private limited), and ChitraEnMesh, polymeric foam-tipped, lint-free swabs with flexible plastic handles. The swabs were developed by technologists Dr Lynda V Thomas, Dr Shyni Velayudhan and Dr Maya Nandakumar from SCTIMST.
ii.The swabs have proven efficiency in the adequacy of specimen collection with minimum discomfort to patients and rapid elution (extracting one material from another by washing with a solvent) of the specimen into the liquid viral medium.
iii.They also have good recovery of viral RNA (Ribonucleic Acid) collected using these swabs and medium. The swabs are safe, ensure minimal contact of the health worker with the sample during packing, and will be available as sterile, ready-to-use devices.
iv.Viral transport medium (VTM): Chitra Viral Transport Medium, is specifically designed to retain the virus in its active form during its transportation from the collection point to the laboratory. Currently, kits containing 50 (3ml/vial) viral transport medium with 50 swabs cost upwards of Rs 12000.
v.Technologies for both swabs and viral transport medium have been transferred to 2 industries for immediate manufacture and sales: Mallelil Industries, Origin diagnostics and Levram Life sciences.
vi.Currently, Nasal and throat specimens collected with specially designed swabs are used for the detection of SARS-COV2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2) by viral gene amplification method which is necessary for the confirmation of COVID 19.
vii.Proper and adequate specimen collection and its transport in a suitable liquid medium are critical for ensuring good quality and quantity of viral RNA from the sample for testing, as these influence the accuracy of the test. Centre for disease control and prevention (CDC), the USA, recommends the use of synthetic fibre swabs with plastic shafts, preferably flocked swabs when available.
viii.The swabs and VTM developed by SCTIMST could reduce import dependency of the materials currently used and can meet huge demand at much lower costs.
Motto– JeevaJyothirAseemahi (May we Live and have Light).
President– Dr Vijay Kumar Saraswat.
Director– Dr Asha Kishore.