ICMR launches three new diagnostic kits

They will help reduce costs of detecting pathogens in food, estimating iron levels in blood and determining vitamin A levels in blood under public health programmes

 
By Vibha Varshney
Published: Saturday 04 July 2015

The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has released three more indigenously developed diagnostic kits, which  are expected to help tackle important public health problems in the country.

These include a polymerase chain reaction or PCR-based kit to detect pathogens in food and water, an ELISA-based kit to estimate iron in the blood and a sample collection kit for blood that can be used to test the levels of vitamin A in a person. All three have been developed by the National Institute of Nutrition (NIN), Hyderabad.

The new kits are the latest in the series of diagnostic kits launched by ICMR in recent months. These include an affordable glucose monitoring kit  for diabetics, and a diagnostic kit to detect genetic disorders thalessemia and sickle cell disease in unborn children.

At the launch of the kits, Union minister of health Ghulam Nabi Azad congratulated ICMR for fast tracking the research to develop these much-needed technologies. This proves the might of Indian scientists, he said, while adding that in future, India would be able to take care of all the technologies needed for healthcare in the country.

Director general of ICMR and secretary of health research, V M Katoch, informed that the kits would be available in the next six to nine months. The contracts would be allotted to the industry within the next couple of weeks.

"These technologies will reduce the cost of government programmes," said Azad. He gave the example of how the iron detection kit would be able to identify people who need to be given iron supplement and reduce the overall expenditure on iron supplements (see box). Katoch revealed that the kits would be made available to the laboratories of Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) and medical colleges. Even private labs can use the kits as these reduce the cost of each test. For example, the kit to identify food-borne pathogens can be used to test food samples for five microbes at a cost of Rs 300 only. The tests available at the moment cost Rs 1,200.

New kits on the block
 
PCR-based food/ waterborne pathogen detection kits

This can detect the five most common food borne pathogens in India—Salmonella, Staphylococcus aureus, Listeria, Vibrio parahaemolyticus. This will help determine the causes of outbreaks of food poisoning and food-borne common infections caused by eating of contaminated eggs, poultry, meat, dairy products as well as vegetables. The kit will be of help not only to the Food Safety Authority of India but also the Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme. About 13 per cent of deaths among children aged less than five years are because of diarrhoea, which is mainly caused because of consumption of contaminated food/water.

ELISA for ferritin estimation

This test will help to diagnose iron deficiency with certainty in the body. This would help treating physicians, policy makers and programme managers to formulate appropriate intervention strategies and monitor the impact of the strategies. Useful to decide supplementation of iron according to the need and also to avoid iron dosing in conditions where iron accumulates in the body like in case of repeated blood transfusions in patients of Thalassemia and Haemophilia. The present estimates of anaemia due to iron deficiency in different groups vary widely from five per cent to 50 per cent.

Dried blood spot collection kit

This is a field-friendly method for blood sample collection for vitamin A analysis. The simple system makes it possible to collect blood on a special type of filter paper which can be stored for seven days at room temperature and for several days at refrigerated temperature. This will allow transport of blood samples from community to lab for mass screening. With this, there would now be no need for the patient to travel to get the test done. Blood samples too would not need to be collected, stored and transported. It will be valuable for mass screening for deciding on Vitamin-A supplementation.

 

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