The microbiology department at the North Bengal Medical College and Hospital (NBMCH) is planning to conduct a study on coronavirus strains to understand whether the virus has changed its character and types. Meanwhile, the Viral Research & Diagnostic Laboratory (VRDL) at the NBMCH has tested more than 50,000 samples for Covid-19, the highest in the state, so far, officials said.

The lab has tested 50,617 samples till today, according to the state government health bulletin, while the figure yesterday was 50,190. The head of the department, Prof Arunava Sarkar, meanwhile, said they had submitted a proposal for the research work on the virus.

“If the proposal is approved, the sub-typing of positive samples will be conducted. We have sought for a molecular machine to understand the difference in strains,” he said. “Many examinations are required to understand the character of the virus.

It is a lengthy process and needs sub-typing of positive samples, mutation study, sequencing, matching with the international database with the National Center for Biotechnology Information to study the initial sub-typing, be it of Russia or the US, and see whether our sequence match.

Once we start the research, it will help us ascertain how much the strains match, its mutation with Wuhan, China, the origin of the coronavirus outbreak. Once we get the machine, it will help the subtyping and mutation study. We will work on the positive samples preserved here to pinpoint the issue,” said a faculty, Dr Santanu Hazra.

On the other hand, the VRDL at the NBMCH is at the top spot among testing centres like the ICMR-NICED and the Institute of Post- Graduate Medical Education and Research (IPGME&R) and the SSKM hospital in Kolkata in terms of number of tests conducted. The method of testing is real time polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR). Prof Sarkar attributed the feat to “team effort and administrative support.”

According to him, VRDLs at other places and private laboratories also testing samples had now reduced the burden on the NBMCH VRDL. Presently, the laboratory receives around 750-800 samples daily, which were around 1400-1500 earlier. The testing capacity of the lab is 2000 a day. The laboratory has also conducted the highest single day test numbering 2100, sources said.

“The high-end laboratory is enabled to perform continuous monitoring of existing as well as new virus strains. Tests for acute encephalitis syndrome and tests under the National Hepatitis Control Programme can also be conducted here,” sources said. Nursing students for order withdrawal Meanwhile, students of different government and private nursing institutes have requested the health department to withdraw its order on resuming classes and clinical duties from 1 July.

The students fear that the rising infection rate will put them at risk. Students of BSc Nursing have made an “online submission” to the director of health services on 26 June after the directorate of health services, nursing branch, issued an order on 22 June for the nursing students to attend the “clinical field experience.” The order asked all the principals/ PNOs of different institutions to “reopen their nursing training institutions immediately and ask the students to attend their clinical field.”

“The clinical experience of students will be counted as their percentage of attendance for practical,” the order has said. “Now, only the GNM (General Nursing and Midwifery) (3rd year), BSc Nursing (3rd & Final Year), Post Basic BSc Nursing (1st year and final year) and MSc Nursing (1st year and final year) students will join their institution to gain clinical experiences,” the order reads.

It has also directed maintaining social distancing in hostels. The students argue that the order had been issued at a time when the Centre and the state government have announced that educational institutions will not resume operations before August. The students have been asked by colleges to undergo Covid-19 tests before joining duties. The students said hostel accommodation will be congested and arranging rented houses will be difficult, given the present situation.