The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare on Friday announced the launch of the country’s first biosafety level-3 containment mobile laboratory in Nashik, Maharashtra. The mobile laboratory has been set up to investigate newly emerging and re-emerging viral infections that are highly infectious and of lethal potential to humans, says the ministry.
Union Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare Bharati Pravin Pawar inaugurated the laboratory, calling it to be is a significant value addition to the government’s efforts to strengthen healthcare infrastructure through the Pradhan Mantri Ayushman Bharat Health Infrastructure Mission.
The laboratory has been designed and built by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) in collaboration with Mumbai based bio-safety equipment maker Klenzaids. Built at a cost of about ₹25 crores, the laboratory is a self-sufficient unit, which has every system and equipment essential for full standalone operation. It is airtight, access-controlled, bio-decontaminable, fitted with safe change HEPA (High-Efficiency Particulate Absorbing) filtration and biological liquid waste decontamination system. The lab is controlled through an intelligent control automation system, which maintains the working environment under negative air pressure and equipment parameters and records all necessary data.
Union minister Bharati Pravin Pawar said the mobile lab will help in real-time data collection, enabling quick containment and prevention of the spread of any emerging viral infections.
The Health Ministry has said that the mobile laboratory provides a public health solution as it can be simply driven around to various locations. The laboratory will be able to access remote and forested areas, where specially trained scientists from ICMR can investigate outbreaks using samples from humans and animal sources. These activities will ensure timely and on-site diagnosis with a rapid turnaround time for reporting these outbreaks.
ICMR DG Dr Balram Bhargava termed the launch of the mobile laboratory as ‘historic’ and added that this is the first Mobile BSL-3 Laboratory of the South Asia region. He recalled that during the Nipah virus outbreak in Kerala, samples had to be transported to the National Institute of Virology, Pune.
In view of repeated outbreaks of highly infectious pathogens like Nipah, Zika, Avian influenza and now Covid, it is critical to be able to detect the emerging epidemics or pandemics at an early stage.