New mouthwash-like ‘saline gargle’ RT-PCR Covid test launched: How it works

There's a new RT-PCR testing method for Covid-19 developed by scientists of Nagpur-based National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) that is hassle-free and not painful. Called the 'Saline Gargle RT-PCR Method', you will be given a saline solution in a testing tube. You are required to pour the saline solution in your mouth and gargle with it for 15 seconds. After gargling, you will have to wash your mouth with the same solution like you usually do with any mouthwash. And then spit out the solution inside the same testing tube.
The testing tube is then sent for inspection to detect whether you are infected or not.
“The Saline Gargle method offers a bunch of attractive benefits, all rolled into one. It is simple, fast, cost-effective, patient-friendly and comfortable; it also offers instant results and is well-suited for rural and tribal areas, given minimal infrastructure requirements,” said the Ministry of Science & Technology in a statement to the media.

“Swab collection method requires time. Moreover, since it is an invasive technique, it is a bit uncomfortable for patients. Some time is lost also in the transport of the sample to the collection centre. On the other hand, the Saline Gargle RT-PCR method is instant, comfortable and patient-friendly. Sampling is done instantly and results will be generated within 3 hours,” said Dr. Krishna Khairnar, senior scientist, Environmental Virology Cell, NEERI.
After the sample is collected, it is taken to the laboratory where it is kept at room temperature, in a special buffer solution prepared by NEERI. “An RNA template is produced when this solution is heated, which is further processed for Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR). This particular method of collecting and processing the sample enables us to save on the otherwise costly infrastructural requirement of RNA extraction. People can also test themselves, since this method allows self-sampling,” said Dr. Khairnar.
The scientist expects that this innovative testing technique will be especially beneficial for rural and tribal areas where infrastructure requirements can be a constraint. The new technique has received the approval of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR). NEERI has further been asked to train other testing labs, to help scale up its adoption across the country.
Nagpur Municipal Corporation has given permission to go ahead with the method, following which testing has begun at NEERI, as per approved testing protocol.

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