Scientists want to be part of COVID-19 battle, write to PM Narendra Modi

Updated: 23 April, 2020 08:01 IST | Pallavi Smart | Mumbai

Propose various measures to deal with crisis, say most biology institutions in India have required machinery to detect COVID-19

Prof Soumitro Banerjee is one of the scientists who wrote to the Prime Minister
Prof Soumitro Banerjee is one of the scientists who wrote to the Prime Minister

India March for Science, a collective of scientists, wrote to the Prime Minister on Tuesday, suggesting they be included in the process for COVID-19 detection, and has proposed various measures to counter the crisis. They have also said that most biology institutions in India have the required machinery to detect COVID-19, if their labs are provided with the extracted RNA from the collected samples.

The letter is signed by over 700 scientists, scholars and university teachers. Citing examples of Singapore, South Korea, and Japan; the letter identifies the need to embark on testing on a very large scale to identify and isolate not only the symptomatic patients, but also infected asymptomatic individuals as social distancing by itself does not suffice. The letter also puts forth a few concrete proposals to deal with the crisis.

'Use biology research labs'
Soumitro Bannerjee, professor at the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER), Kolkata, explained, “The COVID-19 virus is actually an RNA molecule surrounded by a lipid layer. The testing involves two separate processes. In the first process the RNA is extracted from the swab collected from the patient, and in the second stage the RNA is tested to find if it comes from the COVID-19 virus. The second stage can be carried out in the Real Time Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) machines available in most biology research laboratories.”

He added, “In the process we are proposing, the RNA extraction will be carried out in the swab collection centres (normally government hospitals) using a kit available for that purpose. That sample will then be transported to a nearby research laboratory to detect if it contains the RNA of the COVID virus.” According to Prof Banerjee, there are 100 such machines in many institutes, and most faculty members here have showed a positive response in contributing to this effort. Several other suggestions are proposed by the researchers and scholars.

Other suggestions proposed
These include creating isolation facilities, need of extensive testing, ways to ensure mass production of ventilators etc. But the researchers have also emphasised the need to increase the number of genomic sequencing of the Coronavirus isolated from Indian patients, as they will have mutated variants, for the effective management of the pandemic.

No. of signatories on the letter

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First Published: 23 April, 2020 07:55 IST

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