THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: A path-breaking initiative is on the anvil in Covid-19 mitigation. Joining hands with the state Health Department, the Sree Chithra Thirunal Institute for Medical Sciences and Technology (SCTIMST) has begun research on introducing blood plasma therapy to treat Covid-19 patients.
At the same time, the Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Biotechnology (RGCB) is in the process of starting whole genome sequencing (WGS) to help combat Covid-19.The two institutes are spearheading the state’s research studies and innovations to fight the novel coronavirus infection.
“The institute is in the process of developing a convalescent plasma treatment,” an officer with SCTIMST told TNIE. “It involves the isolation of antibodies from the blood of those who fought off SARS-CoV-2 and injecting them into an infected patient. The antibodies are expected to stimulate the sick patient’s immune systems to fight the disease better.” The Sree Chithra Institute, through the Achutha Menon Centre for Health Science Studies, is also undertaking a slew of epidemiological studies on Covid-19.
Sequencing to prove crucial
WGS studies will open up the possibility of recording the genetic code of viruses from different patients. It will also enable tracking of new mutations or different strains of SARS-CoV-2 (technical term for novel coronavirus). At the same time, the study also involves huge investment and collaboration with national and international agencies. If initiated, WGS will hold significance as the state is learnt to have only the WGS of the first two positive cases (Wuhan returnees).
The New Indian Express has also learnt RGCB is in the final phase of introducing a rapid antibody kit that could produce results within 15 minutes. The kit is expected to be handed over for validation by Wednesday or by the end of this week. It will be validated by the Indian Council of Medical Research and the National Institute of Virology, Pune. According to an RGCB official, the kit will be produced on a large scale only after receiving approval.
“The rapid antibody test developed by RGCB is not a substitute for rapid PCR testing,” the official said.
“It is basically intended for surveillance purposes. The kit will not work among those in the initial stages (two or three days) of severe acute respiratory illness or influenza-like illness. It will work effectively among those having symptoms for a week or more.”According to the official, the kit will be effective during community transmission for surveillance or for mass testing for Covid-19 in specific areas.