CSIR to detect link between Air pollution and COVID-19 Says Dr Shekhar C Mande

According to a study done by the University of Cambridge said that Air Pollution is linked to COVID-19 has higher mortality. During research when samples were taken from region to region it was found that people who are exposed pollution found to be at higher risk of COVID-19. Now in India as Air pollution has worsened the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) has started its own research on the matter at the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI), Nagpur. Director General of CSIR, Dr Shekhar C. Mande, speaks on the subject and about other Covid-related developments like the “Feluda test”, in an exclusive interview with Medically Speaking Excerpts: 

Q. Is CSIR going to do research on the link between air pollution and Covid-19?

 A. Of course, but the research will take some time to accomplish. Our labs are working on it already and the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) in Nagpur has started some work too.

 Q. When is CSIR expected to complete its research on whether Covid-19 is air-borne or not?

 A. Researchers have started compiling the results of the airborne study. They are conducting this research at two centres in Hyderabad and Chandigarh. Samples for the study have been collected from various places of India, from places like ICUs, hospital corridors, waiting rooms, places where healthcare workers are most at risk, high rise structures, etc. We are detecting how far this virus can travel. We have taken samples multiple times and are still sampling from different locations with different distances from patients, 4ft, 8ft and 12ft. Now, we have to wait for the results which are expected to come in the next ten days. 

Q. CSIR has tied-up with the UP government. Which projects are the CSIR going to focus on? 

A. We are going to work with the UP government on the types of projects which are required. If they have some ambitious plans on agriculture, the pharma industry or the environment, we will work as a knowledge partner. We are proposing some documents along with the UP government on pharma and we will be doing many other projects too. 

Q. When will “Feluda” come to the market? How does it work? 

A. It’s almost ready to enter the market. Feluda stands for FnCas9 Editor Linked Uniform Detection Assay. It detects active Covid-19 infection by using a CRISPR CAS 9-based readout on a paper strip. Detection takes place in less than an hour. It doesn’t require a real-time PCR machine, will be cheap, and can be performed at the point of care settings where a simple PCR machine is present. The virus has regenetic material RNA and we need to detect that particular RNA. We first do a reaction called RT-PCR (Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction) in which we make DNA from RNA and amplify those copies of DNA. Then there is an enzyme which actually tries to match with the virus. It goes to the correct site and identifies the sequence for Covid. A paper strip is dipped into a solution, and if it is Covid-19 RNA, then you get a band that can be seen. The test gives its results in 45 minutes.

 Q. What should be the comprehensive distribution and delivery mechanism for vaccines?

 A. The Government of India is coming up with a very comprehensive plan and will take very considered decisions as a high priority. Those plans are pretty much in place and the people who have drawn these plans are technical experts in their area and therefore it’s going to be very robust. 

Q. In your opinion, who should get the vaccine first?

 A. People who are at high risk should get the vaccine first because they are handling Covid-19 patients every day. They deserve to get the vaccine first.

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