Villupuram government lab completes 2 lakh tests for COVID-19

The Viral Research and Diagnostic Laboratory started with testing just three samples a day, and ramped it up to 3,500 samples per day in August, officials said

The Viral Research and Diagnostic Laboratory (VRDL) at the Government Villupuram Medical College and Hospital (GVMCH) has crossed a significant milestone by processing over 2 lakh RT-PCR tests for COVID-19.

The VRDL, which is a decade old, was one of the earliest labs among those in government medical colleges in the State to get approval from the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).

Initially started as a sample collection centre, the lab was recognised as a testing centre by National Institute of Virology (NIV).

“ICMR granted permission to the VRDL to carry out COVID-19 testing on March 25. Starting with just three samples a day, the testing was ramped up to reach 3,500 samples per day in August”, said Kundhavi Devi, Dean of GVMCH.

Initially, RNA extraction was done manually with just a machine and a few technicians and scientists. The administration then stepped in to make special arrangements, and three RNA extractors were added to the lab to scale up testing over the next two months.

Though the pandemic was a turning point for the Department, the team led by P. Balapriya, Head of the Department and R. Deepa, Associate Professor rose up to the challenge and responded positively by enhancing the testing capacity, processing the samples and announcing the results in the shortest possible time, Dr. Kundhavi Devi said.

According to P. Shankar, Principal Investigator of VRDL, positivity rate in the district is 2.4 % while the recovery rate stands at 89 %. The district has not reported any death for the last 37 days and the death rate stands at 0.7 %.

“Of the 2.25 lakh samples processed so far, a majority of them are from Villupuram district. Initially, we received samples from four districts — Villupuram, Tiruvannamalai, Kallakurichi and Cuddalore. With the State government sanctioning new labs for Cuddalore, Tiruvannamalai and Kallakurichi, the burden on VRDL has reduced. We have now been processing samples taken only in Villupuram district,” Mr. Shankar added.

At present, the lab has been processing 1,500-2,000 samples a day as against its capacity of 3,000-3,500 per day. The lab is also equipped with TrueNat/CBNAAT based testing to provide results in 45 minutes.

The construction of a new building for VRDL is almost complete and will be inaugurated soon, sources said.


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