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GMCH mulls early malady detection

Guwahati, April 18: The Gauhati Medical College and Hospital (GMCH) has decided to install equipment to conduct nucleic acid test for early detection of life-threatening infections like HIV-positive and hepatitis B and C.

The hospital has already approached Dispur, seeking funds for the project.

U.C. Dutta, head of the GMCH’s blood bank, told The Telegraph that the nucleic acid test, often called “NAT”, is a biochemical technique used to detect a virus or a bacterium. The test was developed to shorten the window period — the time between when a person is infected and when antibody tests can detect that he/she is positive.

He said after installation of NAT equipment, doctors at the GMCH will be able to detect diseases such as HIV-positive or hepatitis B and C within a week from the day a patient is infected with the virus. Normal antibody tests can detect such diseases only after more than three weeks have elapsed since the day a person is infected.

Early detection will help the GMCH to start early treatment of patients with life-threatening infections, which will help save several lives, Dutta said, adding that only a few hospitals in the country have the facility to conduct NAT.

“We hope the Assam government will consider the proposal and sanction funds at the earliest,” he said.

The GMCH will also do away with the manual system of separating blood components. “We have set up an apheresis unit which will automatically separate blood components like platelets, red blood cells and white blood cells within an hour. In the manual system, this takes five to six hours,” Dutta said.

In the automatic technology, the donor’s blood will pass through an apparatus that can separate a particular component of the blood and return the remaining to circulation.

A donor can usually donate blood again after an interval of three to four months. Under the new process, a person will be able to donate blood after a week’s interval. The donors do not feel weak or dehydrated after donating blood under this procedure as only a small quantity is collected.