The Nizam’s Institute of Medical Sciences (NIMS) has received the Cobas 8800 machine, the first real-time polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) diagnostic equipment installed in South India. Capable of testing anywhere between 3,000 and 4,000 swab samples in a span of three-and-a-half hours, the Cobas will go a long way in augmenting the testing capacity of Covid-19 samples in Telangana.

Costing between Rs 7 crore and Rs 8 crore, the Cobas machine is being installed in a high-end microbiology laboratory coming up on the seventh floor of the Millennium Block of Nims. The State government has already invested around Rs 1.50 crore to develop the lab.

At present, the equipment is being installed and our microbiologists are undergoing training to use it. This is the only such machine in South India,” says Dr Vijay Dharam Teja, professor and head of Microbiology, Nims.

“Since the machine is high-end, in terms of technology and costs. We want our microbiologists to be thorough on the usage of the RT-PCR equipment. The company representatives are guiding us on the installation and are training people. We need a few days more to launch the machine,” he said.

Operating on the real-time RT-PCR platform, SARS-CoV-2 diagnostic tests on the instrument detects the genetic signature (RNA) of the SARS-CoV-2 virus in a simple test performed by the healthcare provider by collecting throat and nasal swab samples.

The machine was supposed to reach Telangana in May-June. However, the earlier machine, which was ordered by the State government through the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), was sent to the National Institute of Cholera and Enteric Diseases (NICED), Kolkata, where it has already started functioning.

At present, all government laboratories in Telangana can conduct close to 6,600 Covid-19 tests per day and with the addition of the Cobas at NIMS, the number of tests per day will go up to 10,000 tests per day. Officials say that in the coming weeks, RT-PCR tests, Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) kits and private laboratories combined, would be able to ensure at least 40,000 tests per day in the State.

Being marketed by Roche Diagnostics in India, even when Covid-19 will no longer be an epidemic, the Cobas will be useful to test all kinds of viral agents through the RT-PCR technique.

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