BENGALURU: Even as Kerala, Telangana and Odisha are using vet labs for testing COVID-19 samples, Karnataka is not availing these prime facilities and resources which are available in veterinary colleges/universities and State Disease Diagnostic labs. In fact, Bengaluru has a Biosafety lab level 3. Further, with vets having the necessary expertise in RT PCR (reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction) and hands-on experience with zoonotic diseases, experts say it’s high time the country utilised them for testing COVID-19 samples.
On April 9, the Indian Veterinary Association wrote to the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) saying that facilities and trained faculty for testing coronaviruses were available in most of the veterinary universities. Dr Chirantan Kadian, president, Indian Veterinary Association, stated, “We have PCR and BSL-2 labs with trained faculty for corona testing and rapid testing for investigation of corona cases. Our veterinary virologists have vast experience of research and hands-on experience of zoonotic diseases.
We request your kind intervention of entrusting the responsibility to veterinary scientists and utilisation of facilities and resources available in vet colleges and universities and state disease diagnostic labs.” However, till date, the ICMR has not responded to this appeal as it would have helped in testing COVID-19 as also carrying out research on SARSCOV- 2 virus, says Dr H S Prayag, Secretary, Society of Wildlife Veterinarians, South Chapter. “On the request of Kerala government, four real-time PCR machines have been provided for rapid testing of COVID- 19 samples.
Along with this, eight vets and one lab technician who are experts in the field have been provided. In Telangana, 20 veterinary doctors have been deployed for combat ing COVID-19.” Presently, India lags behind other countries in testing as also in the study of SARSCOV- 2 virus although they have managed to isolate it. WHO has advised all governments to avail veterinary services for combating COVID-19.
Veterinary services are in the best position to take up testing as they have both biosafety and biosecurity labs, WHO adds. Veterinary experts say, “By this time, effective probes of the virus could have been done by taking the help of vet facilities in the country. There are more than 20 veterinary epidemiology departments along with five sophisticated high security labs for working on zoonotic diseases under ICAR. Although medics are only competent to cure diseases -- for the isolation of viruses and research -- vets should be involved.”