Science

Covid testing: ‘Take resources to where the battle is’

Our Bureau Mumbai | Updated on October 16, 2020 Published on October 16, 2020

Does the strategy to test for SARS-CoV2 need to be modified so that people with the infection are caught before they transmit the virus?

Testing needs to be modified and done where the virus resides the most, observed Joseph DeRisi, Professor of Biochemistry and Biophysics at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). “Take your resources and put it where the battle is,” he said, indicating that the infection was seen occurring differently in different populations.

Contexualised testing

Joseph is also Co-President of the Chan Zuckerberg Biohub, a non-profit medical research organisation affiliated to the UCSF, UC Berkeley, and Stanford University. He was participating in a panel discussion at the TNQ-Janelia India Covid-19 seminar. He was responding to a query on the need to change the method of testing, given that the viral load was similar in symptomatic and asymptomatic people and the transmission possibility was identical. He also gave insights into CLIAHUB, the student-volunteer run Covid testing effort that relied on graduate students and postdoc volunteers.

Jacob John, agreed that testing had to be contextualised. The value of testing came through only if it could influence transmission, he said, adding that the spread of the infection was not homogenous. John is Professor of Community Medicine at the Christian Medical College (CMC), Vellore, where he teaches infectious disease epidemiology

Another key concern that came up during the talk whether children were “super-spreaders” and whether schools could be reopened. “Children are not super-spreaders”, said Joseph, in fact they are no different from adults, in terms of symptoms they had, he added.

‘Go slow on schools’

Sundeep Juneja, suggested that they should “go slow” with schools, as there was the inherent risk. His suggestion was to wait till January when much of the infection may have happened. Juneja is Professor and Dean at the School of Technology and Computer Science in Mumbai’s Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR).

The concern with opening up was that infections would increase and while Mumbai had beds and ICUs, they face a constraint on medical staff, he observed. The suggestion was to open gradually and assess medical capacity along side, he said.

Juneja and co-speaker Ullas Kolthur, Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at TIFR, provided a snapshot into the Mumbai Serosurvey and its interpretations. The last edition of the Covid-19 seminar, hosted by TNQ Technologies and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI)’s Janelia Research Campus, comes up next Friday.

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Published on October 16, 2020
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