Medical Journal of Dr. D.Y. Patil Vidyapeeth

LETTER TO THE EDITOR
Year
: 2022  |  Volume : 15  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 450--451

SARS-CoV-2 and microbiologists


Nikunja Kumar Das, Rabindranath Misra, Rajashri Patil, Shahzad Mirza 
 Department of Microbiology, Dr D Y Patil Medical College, Hospital and Research Center, Dr D Y Patil Vidyapeeth, Pune, Maharashtra, India

Correspondence Address:
Shahzad Mirza
Department of Microbiology, Dr D Y Patil Medical College, Hospital and Research Center, Pimpri, Pune - 411 018, Maharashtra
India




How to cite this article:
Das NK, Misra R, Patil R, Mirza S. SARS-CoV-2 and microbiologists.Med J DY Patil Vidyapeeth 2022;15:450-451


How to cite this URL:
Das NK, Misra R, Patil R, Mirza S. SARS-CoV-2 and microbiologists. Med J DY Patil Vidyapeeth [serial online] 2022 [cited 2022 Jul 3 ];15:450-451
Available from: https://www.mjdrdypv.org/text.asp?2022/15/3/450/339398


Full Text



Dear Sir,

2020 is the year, a clinical microbiologist will not forget in a lifetime. It has been both sweet and sour. We first heard about this outbreak of SARS-CoV-2 in Wuhan of China during a casual departmental morning tea time meeting in cold December. The first case of SARS-CoV-2 was confirmed in China on 8th of December 2019.[1],[2] On January 30, the WHO declared SARA-CoV-2 outbreak as Public Health Emergency of International Concern, and on the same day, India also declared its first case. On March 11, the WHO declares this as a pandemic.[3] At that moment, we first had an impression that of a newborn in our family. We always believed as a microbiologist that our way of looking at a microbe is very different from any other stream of physicians. We honor the organisms like no other. After all, they are our breadwinners. We classify them, characterize them, and give them their due respect. So when SARS-CoV-2 was christened, we added it to our ever-growing family (emerging infections).[4] We were all excited about this new member till it became too close for comfort.[5] Then, we had to scramble for everything. It hit us before we could realize. The classroom lectures were canceled and students had to leave for home abruptly.[6] This unexpectedly also gave us some much-needed time to focus on other aspects of the subject, that we generally ignored because of paucity of time.

Not too long ago, people were writing obituaries for microbiology as a subject and with dwindling postgraduate admissions in recent years, our workforce was getting thinner. With automations in microbiology, the need for a microbiologist was getting lesser.

Well this new member of the family certainly changed that perspective for sure. Innocent queries were coming from people of all walks of life. Common person now wanted to know the difference between bacteria and viruses, the definition of a pandemic, about PPE kits, reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR), etc., It was fascinating to listen to hours of discussion on the immune mechanisms involving virus in common public discussions. From a “behind the screen” role, microbiologists were suddenly thrust as frontline warriors. The microbiologists played an important role from the start of the pandemic. From sample collection, careful handling of samples, in conductance of a highly sophisticated RT-PCR test to timely reporting of results and maintenance of quality, they did with great efficiency.[7] Setting up of an accredited laboratory for RT-PCR was done on a war footing. In the 1st week of February 2020, only 14 laboratories were testing SARS-CoV-2 in India. But coming March end, India had 106 VRDLs testing for SARS-CoV-2. Capacity building was further done and a lot of private institutes and laboratories were testing SARS-CoV-2. For quality control, all these laboratories had to undergo NABL accreditation before they became operative.[8] The percolation of these laboratories to a district level and beyond is still a huge challenge. It requires huge investments in infrastructure and highly trained manpower along with political will. Till that time, point-of-care rapid tests are filling up the gaps. Our institute which is based in an urban area also contributed in its own way toward this pandemic. Little time was wasted in ramping up the already established state-of-the-art laboratory. Adequate training for manpower was done in government-established mentor institutes. NABL approval was taken in due time and we were ready.

Handwashing and infection control were more important than before. New postgraduates joined in the meantime. Virology DM course, mandatory setting up of biosafety level laboratory-2 in medical colleges has become the new norm now.[9] With increase in work hours to loss of men, it came with its fair share of side effects also.

We also believe that there must be a huge difference about how we and other physicians deal with this agent on a day-to-day basis. With years of experience of handling organisms in a laboratory, biosafety issues we feel that we (Microbiologists) must be dealing with this organism in a better manner than other physicians. We see every person as infected and every surface contaminated with SARS-CoV-2 until proved otherwise. That's the mantra we would like to convey the world, to get protection from SARS-CoV-2.

But after 10 odd months into it now, we feel that the guest has now overstayed and needs to leave now. We have learned our lessons and now need to move on till the next guest arrives.

Financial support and sponsorship

Nil.

Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

References

1Zhu H, Wei L, Niu P. The novel coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan, China. Glob Health Res Policy 2020;5:6.
2China had First Coronavirus Case in November 2019 Itself. Available from: https://science.thewire.in/health/china-had-first-coronavirus-case-in-november-2019-itself/. [Last assessed on 2011 Apr 28].
3Kantis C, Kiernan S, Bardi JS. Available from: https://www.thinkglobalhealth.org/article/updated-timeline-coronavirus. [Last assessed on 2021 Apr 28].
4Coronavirus's New Name and Surging Case Numbers Cause Confusion. Available from: https://www.genengnews.com/news/coronaviruss-new-name-and-surging-case-numbers-cause-confusion/. [Last assessed on 2020 Oct 13].
5Rawat M. Coronavirus in India: Tracking Country's first 50 COVID-19 Cases; what Numbers Tell. Available from: https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/coronavirus-in-india-tracking-country-s-first-50-covid-19-cases-what-numbers-tell-1654468-2020-03-12. [Last assessed on 2020 Oct 13].
6COVID-19 Lockdown 4.0: Ministry of Home Affairs issues Guidelines, Schools and Colleges to Remain Closed. Available from: https://www.ndtv.com/education/covid-19-lockdown-40-ministry-of-home-affairs-issues-guidelines-schools-and-colleges-remain-closed. [Last assessed on 2020 Oct 13].
7Life during Covid-19 Pandemic as a Medical Microbiologist. Available from: https://ehealth.eletsonline.com/2020/07/microbiologists-playing-a-significant-role-in-the-fight-against-covid-19/. [Last assessed on 2021 Apr 28].
8How India Scaled up its Laboratory Testing Capacity for COVID-19. Available from: https://www.who.int/india/news/feature-stories/detail/how-india-scaled-up-its-laboratory-testing-capacity-for-covid19. [Last assessed on 2021 Apr 28].
9MCI Amends Rules to Ramp up Labs in Medical Colleges. Available from: https://indianexpress.com/article/india/mci-amends-rules-to-ramp-up-labs-in-medical-colleges-6441514/. [Last assessed on 2020 Oct 13].