The Indian National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) has created a saline gargle reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) Covid-19 test that delivers results in three hours.

The new test is said to be simple and rapid when compared to current swab collection and processing techniques.

It received approval from the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) last week. ICMR advised NEERI to train laboratory technicians and boost test adoption in the country.

The cost-efficient, patient-friendly testing method is suitable for use in rural and tribal regions as it requires less infrastructure, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) said. The NEERI is a CSIR constituent lab.

NEERI Environmental Virology Cell senior scientist Krishna Khairnar said that specimen obtained using invasive swabs is time-consuming and could be uncomfortable for people.

Khairnar added: “Sometimes, it is also lost in the transport of the sample to the collection centre. On the other hand, the Saline Gargle RT-PCR method is instant, comfortable and patient-friendly. Sampling is done instantly, and results will be generated within three hours.”

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Specimen collection techniques such as nasopharyngeal and oropharyngeal swab collection need technical proficiency and take time.

Meanwhile, the Saline Gargle RT-PCR method involves a simple collection tube with saline solution, Khairnar noted. To collect the sample, the user can gargle the solution and subsequently rinse it out into the tube.

This sample can be taken to labs where it is kept at room temperature in a particular buffer solution made by NEERI.

On heating the solution, a ribonucleic acid template is generated, which can be processed for RT-PCR.

Khairnar further said: “This particular method of collecting and processing the sample enables to save on the otherwise costly infrastructural requirement of RNA extraction.”

With the surge in Covid-19 cases, the municipal corporation in the Indian city of Nagpur has granted permission to use this testing method in the Vidarbha region of Maharashtra.