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No invasive swab collection, now just a Saline Gargle for COVID -19 RTPCR test

New Delhi – In a notable step forward in India’s fight against COVID-19, Nagpur-based National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) under the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) has transferred the know-how of indigenously developed Saline Gargle RT-PCR technique used for testing COVID-19 samples.

The Saline Gargle RT-PCR technology is simple, fast, cost-effective, patient-friendly and comfortable. It also provides instant test results and is well-suited for rural and tribal areas, given minimal infrastructure requirements.

CSIR-NEERI stated that the knowhow of Saline Gargle has been transferred to the Union Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME), on a non-exclusive basis. This would enable the innovation to be commercialized and licensed to all capable parties, including private, government and various rural development schemes and departments.

The licensees are expected to set up manufacturing facilities for commercial production of Saline Gargle in the form of easily usable compact kits. In the light of the prevailing pandemic situation and probable third wave of COVID-19, CSIR-NEERI fast-tracked the know-how transfer process to potential licensees for its wider dissemination across the nation.

The ceremonial transfer of the Standard Operating Procedure and Know-How of the Saline Gargle RT-PCR technique was done in the presence of Union Minister Nitin Gadkari September11, 2021.

On the occasion, the Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari said that the Saline Gargle RT-PCR method needs implementation across the nation, especially in resource-poor regions like rural and tribal areas. This would result in faster and more citizen-friendly testing and will strengthen our fight against the pandemic. The MSME unit had approached CSIR-NEERI for commercializing the Saline Gargle RT-PCR technology developed by CSIR-NEERI.

The principal inventor of Saline Gargle RT-PCR technology is NEERI scientist Dr Krishna Khairnar and the team of research scholars of Environmental Virology, at CSIR-NEERI, Nagpur.

Saline Gargle: Simple, Fast, Comfortable, economical

The Saline Gargle method offers a bunch of attractive benefits, all rolled into one. It is simple, fast, cost-effective, patient-friendly and comfortable. It also offers instant results and is well-suited for rural and tribal areas, given minimal infrastructure requirements.

“Swab collection method requires time. Moreover, since it is an invasive technique, it is a bit uncomfortable for patients. Some time is lost also in the transport of the sample to the collection centre. On the other hand, the Saline Gargle RT-PCR method is instant, comfortable and patient-friendly. Sampling is done instantly and results will be generated within 3 hours.” Dr Krishna Khairnar, Senior Scientist, Environmental Virology Cell, NEERI said.

The method is non-invasive and so simple that the patient herself can collect the sample, explains Dr Khairnar. “Collection methods like nasopharyngeal and oropharyngeal swab collection require technical expertise and they are also time-consuming. In contrast, the Saline Gargle RT-PCR method uses a simple collection tube filled with saline solution. The patient gargles the solution and rinses it inside the tube. This sample in the collection tube is taken to the laboratory where it is kept at room temperature, in a special buffer solution prepared by NEERI. An RNA template is produced when this solution is heated, which is further processed for Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR). This particular method of collecting and processing the sample enables us to save on the otherwise costly infrastructural requirement of RNA extraction. People can also test themselves, since this method allows self-sampling.” The method is environment-friendly as well, since waste generation is minimized.

A Boon for Testing in Rural and Tribal Areas

The scientist expects that this innovative testing technique will be especially beneficial for rural and tribal areas where infrastructure requirements can be a constraint. The non-technique has received the approval of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR). NEERI has further been asked to train other testing labs, to help scale up its adoption across the country.

Nagpur Municipal Corporation has given permission to go ahead with the method, following which testing has begun at NEERI, as per approved testing protocol.

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