(The Gist of Science Reporter) ICMR’s Efforts to Combat COVID-19 Pandemic  [MAY-2020]

(The Gist of Science Reporter) ICMR’s Efforts to Combat COVID-19 Pandemic


ICMR’s Efforts to Combat COVID-19 Pandemic

India Bagged 5th Position Globally to Isolate the COVID-19 Virus Strain:

  • ICMR, the apex Health Research Body of India, successfully isolated the CovID-19 virus strain and became the fifth nation after Japan, Thailand, United States of America and China who have isolated the strain. The isolation of the strain was the first step to accelerate the development of vaccines, therapeutics and rapid diagnostic kits in India.

Scales up its Capacity to Flatten the Growth Curve of the Pandemic:

  • ICMR has been working tirelessly to implement scientific interventions to battle COVID-19 and so expanded its capacity to diagnose and manage the outbreak. ICMR, which is also the testing agency for the infection, has extended its system of labs equipped to test COVID-19 from 51 to 65. The secondary test for reconfirmation of the infection which was earlier being conducted in ICMR-National Institute of Virology has additionally been extended to 31 labs.

Augmented Plan to Fast-track COVID-19 Testing Facilities:

  • The council has released an augmented plan to fast-track CovID-19 testing laboratory scale-up including proactive search for potential laboratories that could be enabled for CovID-19 testing and inviting applications from all eligible private and Govt Medical Colleges to be a part of the battle against coronavirus pandemic. 
  • The official statement says, “As per directives of Hon’ble Union Minister of Home Affairs and Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare, under a core team of Director, All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Delhi; Director and Director General, ICMR, a total of 14 Centers of Excellence have been designated. These Centers have been delegated the responsibility of mentoring all the Govt and Private Medical Colleges in their catchment area and eventually create state-of-art molecular virology setups.”

Data Portal Streamlining Data Collection from all Laboratories on Real-time Basis:

  • ICMR has prepared a portal that provides complete information regarding CovID-19 including testing Strategy, kits, surveillance and prophylaxis treatment, preparation for a worst-case scenario and disease prevention and management.

Sentinel Surveillance to Detect Community Transmission of the disease:

  • ICMR has been the nodal agency for testing CovID-19 patients and closely monitoring the presence of community transmissions in India. The council has initiated from 15 February the sentinel surveillance for identifying community transmission of COVID-19. The surveillance sites have been scaled up from 16 sites till 29 February 2020 to 51 sites by 15 March 2020. As per the official statement: “In view of the evolving nature of COVID19 transmission, the surveillance is being expanded to include more areas especially areas where COVID19 cases have been reported.”

National Task Force for COVID-19:

  • ICMR set up a national task force to research COVID-19. The national task force constitutes the research groups including Clinical Research Group, Research on diagnostics and biomarkers, epidemiology and surveillance, operations research, vaccines/Drug research and development, to identify the research priorities and initiate research studies. The Terms of Reference (ToR) are as follows:
  • Identify research priorities
  • Review evidence
  • Align them in consonance with the current level of outbreak and response
  • Identify protocol lead and create a protocol development team
    • Develop concept notes
    • Develop complete protocols
  • Identify partners for implementation

TB Testing Machine to Detect COVID-19:

  • To expand the testing facility for CovID-19, ICMR also approved the use of tuberculosis testing machines for conducting COVID-19 tests. The council validated TruenattM beta Cov test on truelabtM workstation and recommended it as a screening test for COVID-19. The ICMR has issued guidance on the use of Truenat TM beta CoV stating that throat/nasal swabs will be collected in the Viral Transport Medium (VTM) with virus lysis buffer provided along with the kit.

ICMR Database being Used in Aarogya Setu App:

  • The Indian Govt brought out the COVID-19 tracker App namely Aarogya Setu which is an initiative to keep people informed and alert against the outbreak by developing a bridge to battle against the disease. Aarogya Setu App needs one’s mobile number, location data (via GPS and Bluetooth), and matches the travelling history with that of the COVID-19 positive patients, documented by ICMR database in the backend.

Role in Establishing Diagnosis of COVID-19:

  • ICMR’s National Institute of Virology (NIV), Pune, serves as the resource centre for the Virus Research and Diagnostic Laboratories (VRDL) network and is responsible for providing technical training for performing molecular and serological assays for virological diagnosis. In view of the COVID-19 outbreak in India, NIV served as the apex laboratory to optimise the conventional and real-time PCR assays targeting different genomic regions of COVID-19 and initiate testing of suspected cases.


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Courtesy: Science Reporter