The National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) has come out with a new technique of collecting samples for RT-PCR tests for COVID: gargling. So, nasal and throat swabs would not be required. The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has approved the innovative technique.
On Wednesday (May 19) the ICMR also gave its go-ahead for a home-based Rapid Antigen Testing (RAT) kit for COVID-19, which will be available soon in the market and can be used for detecting positive cases in home setting.
In the new gargling technique for COVID testing, said to be the first such attempt, no RNA extraction is necessary as required in the existing testing. The RT-PCR test remains the same, the patient can get the result quicker.
NEERI scientists say since gargling is one of the commonly used methods to tackle upper respiratory infection, it can be used for testing/trapping the virus. “A person being tested will be given a wide-mouth conical tube with 5 mm of sterile saline in it. The person has to gargle the saline for 15 seconds and then rinse for another 15 seconds. Then he has to put the liquid back into the tube and shut it,” said a NEERI scientist. The method is expected to make the RT-PCR test a little cheaper.
The NEERI has prepared a buffer medium in which the collected sample is mixed. “The sample is then incubated for about half an hour at room temperature and then heated for around six minutes at 98 degree C. “This gives a reasonably good RNA template for a direct RT-PCR test,” NEERI said.
One of the benefits is that the method does not require trained hands. “Taking samples of children through this method will be much easier,” said a NEERI scientist.