2 firms get Govt nod to produce desi swabs for cheaper Covid-19 test kits
NEW DELHI: India has started manufacturing indigenous swabs for Covid-19 testing, with two firms —Tulips and a Mumbai-based Micro, Small and Medium Enterprise (MSME) — getting a green signal from the Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR) and the National Institute for Virology in Pune.
The swabs — used for collection of oral and throat samples from patients — will cost one-tenth of the imported swabs currently in use, bringing down the cost of Covid-19 testing.
The firms started manufacturing polyester-spun swabs after getting the nod earlier this month. At present, imported nylon-flocked and viscose swabs are part of the viral transport medium (VTM) kits used for Covid-19 testing. The swabs imported from US and China cost between Rs 20 and Rs 30 apiece. But even their supply started drying up in last week of April. The desi polyester swabs will cost between Rs 1.4 and Rs 3.5 each.
Rahul Jain, co-owner of Suparshva, Tulips, told TOI, “Until March, we were just a personal hygiene company. In the second week of April, we were asked by the government if we could make indigenous swabs for Covid-19 testing. Within 10 days, we converted a small part of our 20-million cotton earbud capacity unit in Ghaziabad for polyester swabs. Since May 5, we have dispatched 3.6 million swabs to VTM manufacturers.”
This could help VTM manufacturers expand testing and produce cheaper kits. “Local production of swabs can reduce cost of testing while increasing its spread,” said Vishal G Warke, director, R&D cell culture, HiMedia Viral Transport Media.
Meanwhile, Adi Enterprises, which manufactures ear buds for Johnson and Johnson, also started production of swabs on May 6. Sandeep Makkar, managing director, Johnson and Johnson Medical India, told TOI that for the Made-in-India swabs, Reliance provided the raw material and Johnson & Johnson India provided pro-bono scientific expertise and R&D. “Manufacturing of the test swabs in a record seven days from conceptualisation to production under the Make-In India initiative required ingenuity and rapid action.”