Nipah scare: Kozhikode gets mobile virology lab

RGCB Unveils Mobile Virology Lab in Kerala to Bolster Nipah Virus Detection and Containment Efforts

Thiruvananthapuram | Updated: 15 September, 2023 12:04 pm IST
Central team is set to reach the Kerala district to find out more about the Nipah outbreak

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: As medics brainstorm to develop modalities for the treatment of Nipah virus in Kerala, the Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Biotechnology (RGCB) has rolled out a fully-equipped mobile virology testing laboratory in Kozhikode for strengthening the detection and containment measures.

State health minister Veena George flagged off the mobile virology lab in front of the Kerala Assembly complex on Friday.

Lauding RGCB for stepping in to significantly help the Nipah containment efforts by rolling out such a critical facility, Smt. Veena George said more samples can be tested with the mobile lab reaching Kozhikode on Thursday.

“Biosafety Level 2 (BSL) plus Level 3 practices can be done in the lab where two machines will be working simultaneously. At any given point of time, each machine can handle around 96 samples and a total of 192 samples can be tested in the two machines,” she said.

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Smt. Veena informed that a mobile lab from National Institute of Biosciences (NIB), Pune, has already reached Kozhikode. RGCB Director Prof Chandrabhas Narayana said the services of a group of six experts have been made available in the mobile unit, which can give results within six hours after testing the samples.

“The mobile lab will be deployed right at the containment zone. Any small number of samples can also be tested to provide prompt results to the public,” Prof Narayana said.

He said like a BSL 3 facility, the mobile lab has a double airlock system and features onboard decontamination and biological waste processing capabilities. It can perform testing for bacteria, fungi, and other pathogenic organisms, as well as assess food quality. Principal Secretary, Health, Shri Mohammed Hanish, was present on the occasion.

Shri S. Mohanan Nair, Chief Controller; RGCB; Dr R Radhakrishnan, Scientist; Dr R. Ashok, Advisor; Shri R Kumar, Deputy Controller; and other officials of RGCB were also present.

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The unit is developed by the Laboratory Medicine and Molecular Diagnostics (LMMD) division of RGCB. It is equipped with cutting-edge machinery and operated by highly experienced staff with expertise in molecular diagnostics. It can be powered directly from standard domestic outlets and function seamlessly using its onboard diesel generator.

The equipment inventory includes PCR machines, gel documentation systems, workstations, high-speed refrigerated centrifuges, minus 80-degree freezers, refrigerators, DNA/RNA extracting machines, and an autoclave, among others. It serves as a self-contained and fully functional diagnostic laboratory. The lab is tethered through the Internet to RGCB for speedy data analysis and dissemination of results immediately upon authorization.

The mobile facility can collect samples in a designated area accessible from the vehicle’s rear. These samples are transferred through a UV-illuminated pass box to maintain a controlled and safe environment.

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