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Nagaland: State’s first BSL-3 laboratory operational

By Our Correspondent Updated: May 22, 2020 12:22 am

Another milestone in state’s healthcare, says Rio; best in the Northeast, claims Pangnyu

Neiphiu Rio inaugurating Nagaland’s first virology lab in Kohima on Thursday. (EM Images)

Our Correspondent
Kohima, May 21 (EMN):
Nagaland’s first referral BSL-3 virology laboratory at Naga Hospital Authority Kohima was inaugurated by Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio on Thursday.

Speaking at the inaugural function, Rio said that it is time for people of the state to thank all those who have ‘made the laboratory possible’.

“As we inaugurate this state referral BSL-3 and dedicate to the people of Nagaland, indeed it is another milestone in our historic journey towards healthcare, and particularly to fight the novel coronavirus in our state,” Rio said.

Until now, samples collected from the state are being sent to Assam and Manipur for testing. At this, the chief minister expressed gratitude to the neighbouring states for helping Nagaland in times of crisis.

After inspecting the safety measures and procedures of operating the BSL-3, he said that the virology laboratory is “not only to deal with the Covid-19, but it will be possible to have researches and to see any kind of virus or diseases”.

Despite grim financial position, the state government could spare some funds to procure instruments and set up the BSL lab, he said.

“Out of all these financial constraints, the department, the civil societies, various agencies, churches, and everybody have given their collective efforts physically, in their prayers, their support and co-operation and that’s how I would say that we are in a better position to fight against the coronavirus,” Rio maintained.

Upon inspecting the preparedness in district headquarters, he said that the ‘preparations are humble but done with great effort’.

The Covid-19 hospitals, ICUs, quarantine centres, are in place and “we are in a better position to fight coronavirus”, Rio added.

He said that over 1500 people have already arrived and are at the quarantine centres in Kohima, Dimapur, and other district headquarters. Meanwhile, about 18,622 people have registered at the state government portal to return to Nagaland.

With the Centre’s decision to operate train and flight, thousands of stranded citizens of Nagaland staying outside are expected to return, Rio said.

“While we welcome them (returnee), while we all have to support their returns, everybody has to abide by the directive given by the government to remain in quarantine facilities, so that if anybody is tested positive, it can be contained,” Rio said.

If at all any of the returnees should test positive for Covid-19, “there should be no stigma but support”, Rio said.

“God has been so kind to us because we are united and we are taking a common platform to fight this novel coronavirus,” he added.

The chief minister went on to add that “altogether we are team Nagaland and we are successful because of our unity and joint efforts”.

He appealed for continued support and participation from the citizens.

Minister for Health and Family Welfare S Pangnyu Phom, who also spoke on the occasion, said that four research scientists have volunteered to “work for the cause”, and the department has recruited them.

“The highly contagious nature of Covid-19, it requires no ordinary laboratory. The fact that there is no vaccine or cure, it is important that our state has highly specialised facility for detection and preparedness,” he said.

Phom maintained that other states already had BSL-2, which were upgraded and converted for Covid-19 testing; while Nagaland had to start from scratch.

He thanked the department of Biotechnology, Ministry of Science and Technology for providing the space to house the BSL-3 lab.

Briefly highlighting the setting up of the laboratory, he said that it began in April—design and layout plan—and added that the nationwide lockdown had required extraordinary logistic support for setting up the facility, a first of its kind in the state.

“In reality, this type of work requires six months for a place like Nagaland. We have made it possible in about a month with world class instruments and containment building,” he claimed, and congratulated all those involved in ‘making it a reality’.

“With the commissioning of this facility, we are ready for Covid-19 testing and I am proud to say that we now have the best facility in the whole of Northeast India,” said the Health minister.

Secretary of Health and Family Welfare, Kesonyu Yhome said that as of April 1, 126 laboratories have been approved for Covid-19 testing across India. BSL-3 lab is applicable to clinical, diagnostic, research or production facilities where work is performed with agents that may cause potentially lethal disease through inhalation to the personnel working within it and may contaminate the surrounding without proper safety measures, he added.

Sensing the urgency to have a Covid-19 testing facility in the state, the state government had approved to set up bio safety laboratories – BSL level 3 in Kohima and BSL level 2 in Dimapur, Yhome said.

Accordingly, the work for setting up BSL-3 lab at Kohima started on April 16 and it took about 25 days to complete, delayed by few days owing to supply chain issues during lockdown and unfavourable weather conditions.

Subsequently, on the basis of validation of documentation and quality check run tests, it formally received approval from the Indian Council of Medical Research on May 14, to initiate testing for clinical specimens for Covid-19, the secretary added.

The basic essential features of BSL-3 laboratory include-the bio safety cabinet, unidirectional air flow using room pressure gradients of negative pressure, exhaust air being HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filtered and procedures for proper disposal of lab waste, Yhome shared.

While this facility has been set up immediately for the purpose of Covid-19 testing only, this specialised bio-safety lab has huge prospects in future including ‘rapid response to unidentified new infections’ whenever such an occasion emerges; characterisation of a lot of disease conditions in the state and the region; greater facilities in cancer and genetic research; and collaboration with several other research centres in the country, he said.

The officer also said that the lab will help encourage people with scientific temperament to enter molecular biology, thereby creating a pool of qualified human resource besides providing employment opportunities.

Samples testing from today

Suspected samples of Covid-19 can be taken for test at the laboratory from Friday onwards, according to a research scientist at the lab, Dr. Joshua.

Giving more information about the laboratory, the scientist said that there are two real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) machines that can test about 90 samples (45 samples per machine) in a single day. The report of the samples can be given after 10 to 12 hours, he added.

As for manpower, there are four research scientists, three technicians, two lab technicians, two security personnel, and a data analyst manning the laboratory. He added that two batches will be working about 7 hours in a stretch, alternatively, inside the laboratory during which nobody can come out.

On whether the capacity of testing can be increased, he said that there is manpower as well as machine limitations presently.

Inside the laboratory, there are main rooms like sample processing and nucleic acid room, real time PCR machine room, storage room, donning room, besides others. A control room is also been set up to monitor the other rooms via CCTV.

By Our Correspondent Updated: May 22, 2020 12:22:03 am
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