Karnataka Medical Education Minister Dr Sudhakar on Wednesday inaugurated a first of its kind and reportedly the country‚Äôs only Indian Council of Medical Research or ICMR-approved mobile RT-PCR (reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction) mobile lab in Bengaluru. The Mobile Infection Testing and Reporting (MITR) has been developed by the Indian Institute of Science (IISc). This lab will be capable of conducting 9,000 tests per month, officials said.
‚ÄúThis is a unique lab that has all safety features and is capable of producing 100% accurate results within four hours,‚ÄĚ Dr Sudhakar said while inaugurating it.
IISc has developed this laboratory and handed it over to the Rajiv Gandhi University of Health Science. The mobile lab can also be utilised for molecular diagnostic testing and can be deployed in coronavirus hotspots quickly. Apart from COVID-19, the lab can be utilised for testing H1N1 (swine flu), HCV (Hepatitis C), TB (tuberculosis), HPV (human papillomavirus) and HIV (Human immunodeficiency virus ), the minister said.
Among the available technologies to test coronavirus, RT-PCR is the most trustworthy method of testing. Currently, the other mode of testing extensively put in use in Karnataka is the antigen test, which will show if an individual is currently infected.
While the antigen tests are much cheaper and can give results within 30 minutes as opposed to eight hours taken in RT-PCR kits, their efficacy is thought to be only 50%. The efficacy of the RT-PCR test is more than 75%, according to a section of experts.
The antigen tests also do not need to be used within a laboratory environment nor do they pose a biosafety hazard.
Earlier, speaking to TNM, Dr CN Manjunath, state nodal officer for COVID-19 testing, had said that antigen tests were mostly used to test healthcare workers, persons who have high person-to-person contact or symptomatic patients.
Due to the lower efficacy of these tests, negative results for symptomatic patients on antigen tests have to be confirmed by RT-PCR tests.