Go for dual RT-PCR testing to detect Omicron at low cost: Centre to states | India News

Go for dual RT-PCR testing to detect Omicron at low cost: Centre to states | India News

PUNE/NAGPUR: The Union health ministry has advised states to adopt a dual RT-PCR testing strategy ahead of genome sequencing of Covid positive samples for Omicron detection. Under the new plan, suspected patients’ throat/nasal swab samples will be tested using a standard RT-PCR kit and if detected positive, the same sample will undergo a second test with an imported RT-PCR kit having an S-gene drop.
“Only those samples showing positive for S-gene dropout or S-gene target failure (SGTF) will be genomically sequenced for Omicron. Besides cost-cutting, it will also help in picking up the highly probable Omicron cases and save resources,” a senior Union health ministry official told TOI on Monday.
The Maharashtra government is among the first to have already started implementing the dual test strategy. Quite a few districts with high floating populations have already received the imported kits.
“The cost of genome sequencing goes up to Rs 5,000 per Covid positive sample in India, including the transport, human resource, and other heads,” the official said, adding that whereas the cost per kit of a standard RTPCR kit and imported RTPCR kit with SGTF is Rs 19 and Rs 240, respectively. The dual RT-PCR costs Rs 260.

Besides testing individuals with international travel history and their close contacts, these kits can also be used at government-run laboratories for routine Covid tests to rule out the community spread from daily caseload having high viral load or below 25 cycle threshold (CT) value. A total of 23 of 60 Covid positive samples have so far tested positive for S-gene dropout in Nagpur. Instead of sequencing all the 60 positive samples, these 23 samples are being prioritised for sequencing in Nagpur.
The Virus Research Diagnostic Laboratory at the Nagpur’s Indira Gandhi Government Medical College and Hospital — one of the key sentinel centres in Maharashtra — is carrying out the second RT-PCR test for SGTF prior to sending the samples for sequencing.
The hospital’s head of microbiology department and principal investigator Dr SS Raut said, “We are testing the positive samples again using the specialised RT-PCR kits for SGTF.”
Nagpur’s second confirmed Omicron patient, a 21-year-old youth who returned from Dubai, was the first whose throat/nasal swab sample when tested twice with RTPCR kit showed the SGTF.

Assam Press