The National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) has transferred the know-how of the indigenously-developed saline gargle RT-PCR technique, used for testing Covid-19 samples, to the Union Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSME) Ministry on a non-exclusive basis, an official statement said on Sunday.

The technology, developed by Nagpur-headquartered NEERI, is simple, fast, cost-effective, patient-friendly and comfortable technique, provides instant results and is well-suited for rural and tribal areas, given the minimal infrastructure requirements.

The CSIR-NEERI “dedicated to the nation” the innovation to serve the society by transferring the knowhow to the Union Ministry of Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises (MSME), on a non-exclusive basis, that will enable the innovation to be commercialised and licensed to all capable parties, including private, government and various rural development schemes and departments, the Science and Technology Ministry statement said.

The licensees are expected to set up manufacturing facilities for commercial production in the form of easily usable compact kits. “In the light of the prevailing pandemic situation and probable third wave of Covid-19, CSIR-NEERI fast-tracked the know-how transfer process to potential licensees for its wider dissemination across the nation,” it said.

The ceremonial transfer of the SOP and know-how was done in the presence of Union MSEM Minister Nitin Gadkari on Saturday.

“The saline gargle RT-PCR method needs implementation across the nation, especially in resource-poor regions like rural and tribal areas. This would result in faster and more citizen-friendly testing and will strengthen our fight against the pandemic. The MSME unit had approached CSIR-NEERI for commercialising the Saline Gargle RT-PCR technology developed by CSIR-NEERI,” he had said.

The principal inventor of the technology is NEERI scientist Dr Krishna Khairnar and the team of research scholars of Environmental Virology at CSIR-NEERI, the release said.

The method is non-invasive and simple, and the patient himself/herself can collect the sample. Collection methods like nasopharyngeal and oropharyngeal swab collection require technical expertise, and are also time-consuming. In contrast, the saline gargle RT-PCR method uses a simple collection tube filled with saline solution. The patient gargles with the solution and rinses it inside the tube.

This sample in the collection tube is taken to the laboratory where it is kept at room temperature, in a special buffer solution prepared by the NEERI. An RNA template is produced when this solution is heated, which is further processed for Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR). This particular method of collecting and processing the sample saves on the otherwise costly infrastructural requirement of RNA extraction. People can also test themselves, since this method allows self-sampling. The method is environment-friendly as well, since waste generation is minimised, the NEERI had said when the new test was announced in May 2021.

–IANS

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