Shortage of ELISA readers at PMC delays dengue diagnosis

Oct 10, 2013, 01:30 IST | Anup Satphale

More than 20 blood samples are being sent to BJ Medical College and National Institute of Virology (NIV) daily due the absence of the much-needed machines with civic body

With four deaths and 348 patients testing positive for dengue till date, the killer disease has wreaked havoc in the city this year.

Lifesaver: An ELISA reader. pic/Krunal Gosavi

Unfortunately, despite the increasing number of patients testing positive for dengue is with each passing day, the city has only two testing as the civic body still awaits for an ELISA reader -- a machine used to test blood samples for dengue -- that were ordered almost a year ago.

Authorities at the vector-borne disease control cell at the PMC claimed that the though the process was initiated last year to acquire a few readers, which cost not more than Rs 6 lakh, they have not received a single machine till date.

In the absence of ELISA readers, the PMC health department sends all the blood samples of suspected dengue patients to either BJ Medical College or National Institute of Virology (NIV), the only diagnosis centres in the city that are certified by the state. The civic health department officials claimed that while it took a week to get reports for samples sent to the medical college, the waiting period for receiving reports from NIV is three days. It was learnt that over 20 blood samples were sent to the two centres daily.

Commenting on the issue, microbiology department head Dr Renu Bharadwaj of the BJ Medical College said, “We have been facing ELISA kit shortage for the last 12 days. Though usually we get them on time, this time there has been a delay.”

Sources in the department claimed that in the absence of ELISA kits, they were forced to use the inaccurate rapid diagnostic kits. Stating that results obtained through rapid diagnostic kits were unreliable, a pathologist said, “Only those reports provided by the NIV and the medical college are considered authentic while ascertaining the exact number of people affected with dengue. But with the sudden spurt in suspected number of patients, several private labs are using the rapid diagnostic kit. The result obtained through the kit is highly unreliable and at times can be false as well.”

Bharadwaj said that though they were using the rapid diagnostic kits for now, retesting of the blood samples would be done once they get ELISA kits. “We are using the kits to avoid a delay in treating suspected dengue patients,” she said.

According to Dr S S Ambekar of the state vector-borne disease control department, the civic body having ELISA kits is a must. “The population of the city is 35 lakh. Hence, it becomes essential for the civic authorities to be prepared to curb deaths due to dengue and other vector borne diseases,” he said. 

Assistant Medical Officer Dr Vaishali Jadhav, in-charge of the PMC vector-borne disease control department, said she had asked for ELISA readers way backing in November 2012, but nothing has been done till date. She had categorically stated that they would help diagnose dengue by issuing results the very day of the test. Jadhav had said this would benefit the patient, as the treatment would commence without further delay.

“We discussed the issue with the authorities of the state vector-borne disease control department, and they are ready to give ELISA kits. But to conduct the test at our lab, we need an ELISA reader.” Jadhav said.

When contacted, PMC Medical Officer of Health S T Pardeshi he was unaware of any such demand made by the concerned department. “I believe when we have the NIV, we don’t need a reader. Samples can be tested at the NIV itself,” he said.

Number of blood samples sent to BJ Medical College for diagnosis of dengue in 2012

Did you know?
As per the order issued by the central government to the civic bodies in the country, the respective health departments are not supposed consider reports issued by private labs. All samples from the city are supposed to be sent to designated centres, certified by respective state governments, for diagnosis of dengue.  

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