Hyderabad: Cellular and Molecular Biology has developed a dry swab-based direct RT-PCR, and has tied up with Meril diagnostics, for commercially scaling up the dry swab tests.

According to CCMB scientist, this method is a variation of the existing standard RT-PCR method and can easily scale up the testing by 2 to 3-fold with no new investment of resources.

As per the method, one can simply break open the cells by using the appropriate buffer solution and use them for RT-PCR directly. There is no need for separate steps of RNA extraction and purification," said Dr Vinay Nandicoori, Director- CCMB.

Dr Rakesh Mishra, Advisor, CSIR-CCMB adds that RNA extraction, even with automation, takes 4 hours for roughly 500 samples. "Viral Transport Medium (VTM) and RNA extraction both add a significant burden on money and time required for mass testing for coronavirus. We believe this method has the potential of bringing the costs and time of testing by 40-50% in all kinds of settings.

Meril's extraction-free dry swab kit can be used to isolate the viral RNA from dry swab samples. These isolates can then be directly used for RT PCR. "We are the first company to commercially launch the dry swab kit. We truly believe the use case for the dry swab collection sample technique is very large. It is imperative in these times to get a quick RT-PCR result and this method helps in doing so by eliminating the lengthy RNA extraction process. We believe this will help scale testing in India, and help government and private labs in reducing their turnaround time. This is the need of the hour", says Sanjeev Bhatt, Vice President - Corporate Strategy, Meril.

Meril is currently equipped to manufacture 2 crore kits a month. Each kit suffices for 100 tests. Using these kits, each test will cost between Rs 45-60.

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