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Microbiology Lab of GMC Srinagar conducts 1500 tests per day: Dr Anjum Farhana

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Says proper sampling along with good lab practices must for accuracy of results

Srinagar: Microbiology Department of Government Medical College, Srinagar runs a Covid-19 testing Lab which started functioning from March 14, 2020 and is conducting 1500 tests per day, says Dr Anjum Farhana, HoD, Microbiology.

She says the facility is a state-of-the-art negative pressure lab BSL level (3) which was initially sanctioned and made functional in late 2017 as a molecular lab for influenza.

Proper sampling along with good lab practices will give accuracy of results, she said while adding that these labs are designed to work on organisms causing serious disease via inhalation and prevent infection to health-care workers.

“Our lab is functional 24×7 and with capacity to do nearly 1500 tests per day.  We have till date tested nearly 3 lakh samples,” Dr Anjum stated.

Abot the two-types of tests for Covid-19 — diagnostic and antibody tests — she said the gdagnostic tests include RT-PCR and Rapid Antigen Tests.

Diagnostic tests tell us whether or not person has active infection. “Our lab primarily does RT -PCR tests only,” she said.

“We intend to increase our capacity by more than 2000 tests per day, once the fully automated analyser Cobas 6800 is received. The  Cobas 6800 is a sophisticated machine which minimises contamination and risk of infection to HCW and tests 1200 samples in 24hrs,” informed  Dr Anjum.

“We are also catering to associated hospitals including SMHS, Lalla Ded, Bones & Joints, Super Speciality, Kashmir Nursing Home, GB Panth, other hospitals of district Srinagar and district Bandipora,” she informed and added that samples received are 3 to 4 times more than previously received by the lab which increases work pressure but the department is enhancing the capacity with additional staff in the Covid testing lab.

“Samples received by our lab are mainly nasopharyngeal swab in a Viral Transport Medium. Samples are transported from collection sites in cool boxes containing dry ice and transported as soon as possible to our lab. In case of delay of more than 72 hrs they may be kept at -70 degree Centigrade,” she advised.

Apart from taking the sample properly, timing is also important and chances of detection of virus being high within first four days of being symptomatic. In case of close contact, sample is to be taken between 5th to 10th day of exposure, she informed.

“Combination of RTPCR, clinical features along with CT findings help in management of patients,” said Dr Anjum said.

“Remember if you test positive, it means you are infected now and can transmit infection to others,” she said and further added that “if you test negative you can still get infected and have to take precautions to avoid getting infected.”

“Negative result does not exclude the possibility of being infected with Covid-19, particularly if you are symptomatic and test negative, one can get again tested subsequently as per the advice of the clinician.”

Explaining the difference, she said “RT PCR test will not tell you if you have been previously infected. This can be known by Antibody tests.”

Regarding delay in results, Dr Anjum gave a number of reasons including excessive samples received more than capacity of the lab, sudden failure of machines due to excessive work load, and  due to lock down in other states,  reagents and other consumables coming from outside getting delayed.

Besides she said that Microbiology department is not only responsible for providing individual Covid results but also involved in data uploading and sending it to all concerned every 24 hours.

Moreover, ICMR data is also being uploaded onto ICMR portal 24/7.

This, she said, is done by closely coordinated team of consultants, senior residents and DEO. “Our lab is an ICMR VDRL lab. Its quality of testing is closely regulated through EQAS. Five percent samples are also being sent via SKIMS to NCDC for genomic sequencing.”

Dr Anjum said that she got training in March 2020, under DHR ICMR National Level Training programme  which was conducted regarding SAR-COV 2  sampling and transportation. Then, she imparted training to staff to train healthcare workers at district level besides HCW of various associated hospitals.

While advising people to follow Covid SOPs, she reiterated the precautions to be taken by people: to maintain distance, wear mask, avoid crowds, clean hands often and get vaccinated.

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