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TB test lab first in north
- NBMCH to check multi-drug resistant bacteria

Siliguri, Dec. 12: A laboratory for diagnosis of multi-drug resistant tuberculosis would be built at North Bengal Medical College and Hospital, the second such facility in the state after the BC Roy Polio Clinic and Hospital in Calcutta.

According to Kalyan Khan, the assistant professor in the pathology department in NBMCH, around Rs 2.5 crore was sanctioned by the Union ministry of health and family welfare earlier this year and the facility, known as intermediate reference laboratory, is under construction in the pathology department.

“Tuberculosis is an infectious disease caused by a particular bacteria. But TB becomes multi-drug resistant when a patient doesn’t complete taking the full course of medicine prescribed by the doctor. Although, NBMCH conducts tests to diagnose TB, it does not have an intermediate reference laboratory to test multi-drug resistant TB,” Khan said.

“The only such facility in the state is at the BC Roy Polio Clinic and Hospital in Calcutta. We have been either referring patients there for tests or sending their sputum samples. But not all patients can afford to go to Calcutta for tests and while sending the samples, there is always the danger of spilling and the bacteria can be released in the air and infect others,” Khan added.

He said: “Hospital authorities had sent a proposal to the Centre for an intermediate reference laboratory at NBMCH. It was sanctioned early this year and construction is in progress.”

According to NBMCH sources, the lab will function in “negative air pressure conditions” so that the harmful biological agents from the samples collected from patients would not be released out of the facility.

“This is the first laboratory in NBMCH having bio-safety level III. It is a high level of bio-safety considering that there are four levels in all. In such a facility, utmost care is taken that the harmful biological agents like bacteria from the samples, are not released out of the lab and contracted by people,” the assistant professor said.

“The technicians will themselves wear special gear and oxygen masks while carrying out the tests.”

Health department officials in Calcutta said there were practical problems in bringing samples from north Bengal to Calcutta. The samples need to be put in temperature-controlled containers of around 25°C. “But bringing the samples from such a distance increase risks of these getting damaged,” said an official.