Combatting the Threat of Corona Virus (Covid-19) Through Effective Diagnosis- A Pressing Priority

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ABOUT AUTHOR
Dr. Saurabh Kumar Banerjee
Associate Professor
School of Pharmaceutical Management
The IIHMR University,
Jaipur (Pin-302029), Rajasthan, INDIA
Email: saurabh@iihmr.edu.in
Mob: - +91-8890398067

 

The whole world is facing a catastrophic situation which it has never faced before due to outbreak of COVID-19. As per the Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) Situation Report – 74, by WHO Globally 972 303 confirmed cases and 50,322 deaths have been reported as on April 3, 2020. No region of the world which includes Western Pacific Region (1,08,930) confirmed cases and 3760 deaths), European region (5,41,808 confirmed cases and 37 103 deaths), South-East Asia region (5881 confirmed cases and 245 deaths) , Eastern Mediterranean region (62 236 confirmed cases and 3439 deaths) , regions of America ( 247 473 confirmed cases and 5600 deaths) and African region ( 5263 confirmed cases and 164 deaths), has been spared by the brutality of the deadly virus (Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) Situation Report – 74, by WHO). The total confirmed cases in India are reported to be 1965 with total deaths reaching out to be 62 as per the Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) Situation Report – 74, by WHO as on April 3, 2020.

Not only at the public front but the noxious virus has shuddered the whole Indian and World economy. Railway services, airlines industry, logistics, production, manufacturing, construction and tourism industry all have come to a standstill. With the three-week lockdown announced by prime Minister Modi on 24th March in response to counteract the further spreading of the corona Virus, the experts feel India’s GDP to be on a lower trajectory in the subsequent quarters to come. According to Capital Economics India’s current economic growth is slow to just 1% this year, the lowest it had been for over 40 years. The global economy in the year 2020 is anticipated to grow by 2.4 % instead of originally projected at 2.9 according to OECD (Coronavirus impact monitor – 19 March 2020 Deloitte Economics 2nd edition).

Amidst the gloomy and the dismal situation prevailing in the whole world there is one industry which has responded in a terrific way and has come up in an unprecedented way and it is the MEDICAL DIAGNOSTIC INDUSTRY. The medical diagnostic industry has lived to the quote

“Necessity is the mother of invention”

which means Difficult situations inspire ingenious solutions.

Diagnosis is the most vital and primary step towards treatment of any disease condition. WHO in its Novel Coronavirus(2019-nCoV) Situation Report – 8 have outlined the strategic objectives for counteracting the corona outbreak  and has reiterated that this can be achieved through combination of public health measures, such as rapid identification, diagnosis and management of the cases.

The Union Govt acted very promptly on the urgent need for diagnosis of COVID-19 cases and permitted 12 private labs to conduct Covid-19 detection tests. Indian Council of Medical Research approved the 12 private lab chains which operate with 15,000 collection centers. ICMR further notified that all the private laboratories which have NABL accreditation for real-time PCR SA for RNA virus will be permitted to conduct the Covid-19 tests. In order to regulate the price of the Covid-19 diagnostic test the National Task Force capped the price of testing not to exceed 4,500. (India Today, 23 March). In response to the prevalence of more suspected cases and to speed up the pace of testing ICMR has allowed 51 private labs across the country to conduct tests for Covid-19 (Economic Times, April 2, 2020).

Meanwhile govt was gearing up for the testing challenges India was facing criticism as India was confronted with one of the lowest testing rates which is 15 people in one million (Economic times, March 24, 2020). One of the success stories which is worth mentioning in context to controlling the corona pandemic is South Korea. They controlled the outbreak not by lockdown but by intensive testing of there population. South Korea tested more than 270, 000 people, a magnitude of more than 5200 tests per million inhabitants according to the Worldometer website.  The world realized the importance of testing when the message by WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus flashed across the world. The message reads as below

“We have a simple message to all countries - test, test, test,”

These were the three golden words which he uttered to the news conference in Geneva on March 16, 2020. He called the pandemic “the defining global health crisis of our time” He urged that  “All countries should be able to test all suspected cases, they cannot fight this pandemic blindfolded.”

Without testing, cases cannot be isolated, and the chain of infection will not be broken, he said.

The message was well taken by the entire global medical diagnostic industry and many pharmaceutical and medical devices industry activated their R&D to come with a rapid diagnostic kit for testing Covid-19 virus. The molecular diagnostic industry which deserves a special accolade is “Mylab Discovery Solutions ” based at Pune which gave first made-in-India coronavirus testing kit. “Mylab Discovery Solutions” has been approved to make and sell rapid diagnostic kits for detecting Covid-19 virus and the organization is providing one kit at a cost of Rs 1200 which has the capability to test 100 samples. The kit gives the result in two and a half hours as compared to six- seven hours by the imported kits (BBC News, Asia, India, March 28, 2020). The kit has been approved by the Drug Controller of India once it got validated from National Institute of Virology.

The brainchild behind the development of the corona virus testing kit which is named as “Patho detect” is Ms. Minal Dakhave Bhosale, Mylab research and development chief.

Govt has allowed “Mylab Discovery Solutions” and a German firm “Altona Diagnostics” to supply Covid-19 test kits to Government of India and the private testing laboratories in India. The government also realizing the need of more diagnosis testing of Covid-19 cases has approved 12 rapid antibody test kits, which takes the number to 16 organizations who can market their kits in India (Business Today, March 27, 2020). The second organization who have sought approval for corona virus testing kits from DCGI is Chennai based Trivitron Healthcare. The Swiss firm Roche Diagnostics India also became the first private accredited labs to get the approval from drug regulator DCGI for conducting the corona virus tests. (Economic Times, March 18, 2020).

The magnitude of spread of Covid-19 is so immense that there was an immediate demand of a self-test kit which could be used by the general public on their own in home settings. Bione which is a genetic and microbiome testing organization launched India’s first Rapid Covid-19 screening test which could be used at home (Economic times, April 3, 2020)

The current diagnostic tests which are in use for testing Covid-19 detects the active infection through nasal or throat swabs but a very important step in controlling the spread of infection is surveillance of the general population by collecting the epidemiological data which could be done by a serological test which identifies the antibodies in the blood and gives a indication whether the person was previously infected by the Corona virus. ICMR has floated a bid in which it has invited requests from organization who are willing to develop antibody kits for detection of Covid-19 (Economic times, Healthcare, March 27, 2020). The Govt of Rajasthan is all prepared to initiate the Serosurveillance in the state of Rajasthan in which the rapid testing kit approved by ICMR will be used to collect blood samples (a drop of blood) using a strip in the target population.

The miserable situation in which the Covid-19 has engulfed the entire world and the way organizations like Mylab Discovery Solutions and fighters like Ms. Minal Dakhave Bhosale have arose prompt me to write the quote
“When the Going Gets Tough, The Tough Get Going” – meaning when the situation becomes difficult, the strong will work harder to meet the challenge

According to studies published the overall global diagnostics market will be worth US$ 40–45 billion with POC (Point of care) diagnostics contributing US$ 12–13 billion (Credit Suisse. Life science tools and diagnostics initiation. North America: Credit Suisse; 2011), I will urge the readers to explore the avenues in the area of molecular diagnostics industry and develop their knowledge and competencies to unleash the endless opportunities waiting for them in the sunshine industry.

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