Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), Govt of India

CSIR to carry study to ascertain airborne spread of COVID-19

After World Health Organization’s recent acknowledgement that there is emerging evidence of airborne spread of the novel coronavirus whole scientific community has started looking for the mode of transmission of novel coronavirus with different perspective. Director General, CSIR, Dr Shekhar C Mande said in a blog post “Airborne transmission of COVID possible, wear masks in enclosed spaces”. Is novel coronavirus really transmitting through air? To answer this question two CSIR labs, Institute of Microbial Technology (IMTECH) in Chandigarh and Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) in Hyderabad, are gearing up to conduct study. When we sneeze, cough, talk or sing droplets are sprayed from our mouth. Some of the bigger droplets drop to the ground like a ball thrown from a height. These larger droplets then settle on the surfaces. If the person is infected then inhalation of the droplets or touching the droplets on the surface can transmit the virus. Like a feather that stays longer in the air, lifted up by air currents, smaller droplets remain suspended in the air for some time. If people at crowded places come in contact of these droplets there is a potential threat of spread through these small droplets. The virus laden droplets are unlikely to be found in an open park or a public road. However, in enclosed spaces, an infected person can leave a trail of small droplets with virus suspended in the air. For finding such potential places one needs to actually study the air sample in the first place. “We are in talks with the state governments to allow us to go to some of the areas where there is possibility of virus, we can look for hospital ICUs, isolation centres or public transports,” said Dr Sanjeev Khosla, Director, IMTECH, Chandigarh. The air sampling is done through specialised machines. These have a suction pump that draws air. The air sample goes through a filter at the end of the instrument. The filter traps the airborne micro-organisms. “We will be taking in some amount of air from a particular area based on calculations that we would do that how far these air droplets can move and then try to see whether these air droplets have the virus and how far we can detect them,” said Dr Khosla. To ensure that the machine doesn’t get contaminated, the filters and the suction pump are cleaned up after every collection. The machines are patented devices and are being used to trap other micro-organisms too. Once the sampling is done it would analysed for presence of various pathogens including novel coronavirus. “But sampling may take time, as one has to repeat the experiments as contamination need to be taken care of,” said Dr Khosla.


Cipla set to launch repurposed drug Favipiravir for COVID-19: CSIR

Cipla has scaled up the process in their manufacturing facility and approached Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) for permission to launch of a repurposed drug Favipiravir for COVID-19 in India. Given that DCGI has given restricted emergency use for Favipiravir in the country, Cipla is now all set to launch the product to help patients suffering from COVID-19. “Hopefully by August 1st this will be available in the market,” said Dr S Chandrasekhar, Director, CSIR-Indian Institute of Chemical Technology (CSIR-IICT). An off-patent anti-viral Favipiravir has been originally discovered by Fuji, Japan which has shown promise in clinical trials for treatment of COVID-19 patients, especially the mild and the moderate patients. It is an Active Pharmaceutical Ingredient (API). An active ingredient is the ingredient in a pharmaceutical drug or pesticide that is biologically active. IICT has developed a cost-effective process using locally available chemicals to synthesize Favipiravir and transferred the technology to Cipla Limited. The pharma industry buys very advanced drug intermediates also called as Key Starting Materials (KSM) from China or some other countries. After doing one or two synthetic operations these are made into final products. “We make KSM ourselves starting from chemicals manufactured locally, that brings down the cost of these products,” said Dr Chandrasekhar. “The technology provided by CSIR-IICT is very efficient and makes it affordable and allows Cipla to make large quantities of the product within a short span of time,” said Dr Chandrasekhar. DG-CSIR, Dr Shekhar C Mande said that CSIR is working with industry in developing quick solutions and products for mitigation of COVID-19 and this partnership with Cipla is an example of how CSIR is committed in bringing repurposed drugs on a fast track. “We are taking up some clinical trials for repurposing of some other drugs too, that will take some time,” told Dr Chandrasekhar.


Airborne transmission of COVID-19 possible, wear masks in enclosed spaces: CSIR

Amid recent acknowledgement from the World Health Organisation (WHO) over emerging evidence of airborne spread of the novel coronavirus, the head of India’s premier R&D body has said that airborne transmission of SARS-CoV-2 is indeed a “distinct possibility” and suggested wearing masks even in “enclosed” spaces. Director General of the CSIR, Dr Shekhar C. Mande sought to bring clarity on the issue in his blog post referring to findings of various studies and said, “All these emerging evidences and arguments suggest that indeed airborne transmission of SARS-CoV-2 is a distinct possibility.” Elaborating on how one can keep oneself safe in such a scenario, Mande wrote: “The answers are intuitively very straightforward – avoid large crowded gatherings, keep enclosed places like workplaces well ventilated, and most importantly, continue wearing masks even in enclosed spaces.”