The reference laboratory will be able to supply the VTM kits at Tk150-200 apiece whereas the market price of the Chinese one is Tk430 per piece
The Bangladesh Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (BCSIR) has developed a viral collection and transport kit, which has been imported until now, and is ready to deliver it to PCR laboratories.
The device, also known as Viral Transport Media (VTM) kit, resembles a tube containing a solution to preserve clinical specimens until they are tested.
The VTM is a mixture of salt, protein and antibiotics. The Centre for Disease Control and the World Health Organisation have issued guidelines on making the VTM for Covid-19 sample collection.
The kit, manufactured by the Designated Reference Institute for Chemical Measurements (DRiCM) under the BCSIR, is as good as the imported ones, and will cost less than half the price of those imported from China, said Mala Khan, director of the DRiCM.
The reference laboratory will be able to supply the VTM kits at Tk150-200 apiece, whereas the market price of the Chinese one is Tk430 per piece.
"We designed the kit bearing in mind the means of avoiding cross-contamination and ensuring the accuracy of the results through a proper storing of the samples," said Khan.
The kit samples have been given to the Directorate General of Health Services. It may take a week to get the go-ahead for starting bulk production of the items. Primarily, the research organisation is prepared to supply one lakh pieces. If necessary, the production capacity can be increased.
The raw materials for making the kits have already been procured, and the DRiCM can go for further production with supplies of more raw materials from local companies.
"While designing the kit, we tried to overcome limitations related to imported items," said Khan, explaining that the tube is longer so that when a sample is collected before the test by a pipette from it, the pipette's non-disposable part does not come into contact with the tube.
That is one way to avoid cross-contamination, she added.
Specimens collected in the VTM kit can be preserved for three days at 4 degrees Celsius.
Right preservation is crucial in obtaining the right results. If the quality of a specimen deteriorates, it is rejected, needing repeated collections of the same sample.
The kit comes with a swab stick and instructions with pictorial illustrations as to how to collect samples.
Apart from the kits, the DRiCM has been producing hand sanitisers since March 13, in compliance with WHO standards, and supplying them free of cost to public hospitals, including Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University, Kurmitola General Hospital, Dhaka Medical College Hospital and Combined Military Hospital as well as other government organisations.
The measure was taken after sanitisers had gone out of stock in the market in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak. Moreover, the DRiCM found that more than 90 percent of the hand sanitisers available in the market were not of the required quality.
When asked if the reference lab would conduct polymerase chain reaction [PCR] tests since it has the capacity, Mala Khan said those involved were keen on helping laboratories with findings from their research work.
At present, the DRiCM is examining four types of PCR kits – two Chinese, one Korean and one from Singapore – in use.
"We are currently evaluating which one is more reliable for accuracy."