Experts looking to modify TB test to track Covid-19 infection

New Delhi: India has decided to try a diagnostic method, currently being used for tuberculosis, to test Covid-19, as the number of coronavirus positive cases is on the rise in the country.

Experts are looking at modifying the cartridge-based nuclei acid amplification test — CBNAAT diagnostic test of GeneXpert — so that it can be used for testing the coronavirus. “A different type of cartridge will be required, and will be procured,” a senior government official said on the condition of anonymity.

The decision was taken on Tuesday by an empowered group constituted by the home ministry for planning and ensuring implementation of Covid-19 response activities. According to the official, the availability of experts and machines so far used for TB will increase the testing capacity in the country. “Tests (for Covid-19) can be increased from 5,000-6,000 per day,” he said.

The government has been facing severe criticism on its strategy of limited testing and public health experts say one of the most valid reasons for this was short supply of testing kits which is fast emerging as a big problem confronting laboratories nationally. On March 17, the ICMR said it had 1.5 lakh testing kits and that it had ordered 1 million probes from Germany.

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