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Only two labs in State can do COVID-19 confirmatory test

By Rituraj Borthakur

GUWAHATI, March 22 - Only two laboratories in the State can conduct COVID-19 confirmatory tests as on date. This emerged after the confusion and panic triggered following an imprecise statement by the deputy commissioner of Jorhat that samples of a four-year-old girl had tested �positive� and has been sent to RMRC Lahowal for �recheck�.

At RMRC, it turned out to be negative for COVID-19. The health department recently stated that four laboratories in the State have been accredited by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) for conducting coronavirus test.

Official sources today told The Assam Tribune that only RMRC Lahowal and Guwahati Medical College and Hospital (GMCH) are equipped to conduct the confirmatory test for COVID-19.

�The lab at Jorhat and the one at Silchar is presently detecting a particular gene for screening assay on real time platform which can be positive in other coronaviruses as well. Whereas the lab at GMCH and RMRC Lahowal, apart from screening that gene, are doing confirmatory test for COVID-19 detection,� the sources said, adding that the testing kits would be made available at the labs at Jorhat and Silchar phase-wise.

Citing various publications and research, Dr Raj Dutta, consultant of internal medicine and critical care at Dispur Hospitals here, said coronaviruses are a group of related viruses that cause diseases in mammals and birds.

In humans, coronaviruses cause respiratory tract infections that can be mild, such as some cases of the common cold and others that can be lethal, such as SARS, MERS, and COVID-19.

�Human coronaviruses were first discovered in the late 1960s. The earliest ones discovered were an infectious bronchitis virus in chickens and two in human patients with the common cold � later named human coronavirus 229E and human coronavirus OC43. Other members of this family have since been identified, including SARS-CoV in 2003, HCoV NL63 in 2004, HKU1 in 2005, MERS-CoV in 2012, and SARS-CoV-2 (formerly known as 2019-nCoV) in 2019. Most of these have involved serious respiratory tract infections,� Dr Dutta said.

Mutations are common in nature. In addition, coronaviruses are capable of genetic recombination if two viruses infect the same cell at the same time, he said.

Seven strains of human coronaviruses are known, of which four produce the generally mild symptoms of the common cold � fever, runny nose, bodyache and headache � and in the remaining three, symptoms that are potentially severe � high grade fever, cough, shortness of breath and later worsening to even pneumonia, respiratory failure, sepsis, altered mental status, multi-organ failure, etc.

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