Kerala's innovative mobile lab to combat Nipah virus threat

Health minister Veena George inaugurates RGCB's mobile virology lab to contain Nipah virus reported from parts of the state's Kozhikode district

The mobile lab offers expert results within 6 hours after testing samples (Photo: IANS)
The mobile lab offers expert results within 6 hours after testing samples (Photo: IANS)


The Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Biotechnology (RGCB) in Kerala on Thursday, 14 September rolled out a fully-equipped mobile virology testing laboratory, strengthening the efforts to contain the Nipah virus infection reported from parts of the state's Kozhikode district.

Health, woman and child development minister Veena George flagged off the mobile virology lab in front of the Kerala assembly complex.

Lauding the RGCB for stepping in to significantly help the Nipah containment efforts by rolling out such a critical facility, she said more samples can be tested with the mobile lab reaching in Kozhikode later in the day.

"Biosafety Level 2 (BSL) plus Level 3 practices can be done in the lab where two machines will be working simultaneously. At any given point of time, each machine can handle around 96 samples and a total of 192 samples can be tested in the two machines," George said.

She also informed that a mobile lab from National Institute of Biosciences (NIB), Pune, has already reached Kozhikode.

RGCB Director Prof Chandrabhas Narayana said that the services of a group of six experts have been made available in the mobile unit, which can give results within six hours after testing the samples.

"The mobile lab will be deployed right at the containment zone. Any small number of samples can also be tested to provide prompt results to the public," he said.

Narayana also said like a BSL 3 facility, the mobile lab has a double airlock system and features onboard decontamination and biological waste processing capabilities. It can perform testing for bacteria, fungi, and other pathogenic organisms, as well as assess food quality.

The unit is developed by the Laboratory Medicine and Molecular Diagnostics (LMMD) division of the RGCB. It is equipped with cutting-edge machinery and operated by highly experienced staff with expertise in molecular diagnostics. It can be powered directly from standard domestic outlets and function seamlessly using its onboard diesel generator.

The equipment inventory includes PCR machines, gel documentation systems, workstations, high-speed refrigerated centrifuges, minus 80 degree freezers, refrigerators, DNA/RNA extracting machines, and an autoclave, among others.

It serves as a self-contained and fully functional diagnostic laboratory. The lab is tethered through the internet to the RGCB for speedy data analysis and dissemination of results immediately upon authorisation. The mobile facility can collect samples in a designated area accessible from the vehicle's rear. These samples are transferred through a UV-illuminated pass box to maintain a controlled and safe environment.

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