A video of how young kids of a family packing swab test sticks is doing social media rounds. This has led to many people questioning if these swab test sticks, mainly used for COVID-19 RT-PCR tests, are sterile enough to be used.
A video of how young kids of a family packing swab test sticks is doing social media rounds. This has led to many people questioning if these swab test sticks, mainly used for COVID-19 RT-PCR tests, are sterile enough to be used. The plastic sticks having cotton buds on both ends are being packed in slums of Ulhasnagar. A report by The Indian Express noted that more than a dozen households have been working in packaging of these sticks. These RT-PCR nasopharyngeal kits are being picked from a local supplier, Maneesh Keswani for one week now.
Why are people in slum packing these swab test sticks?
Many people across the Ulhasnagar slum have received boxes of these swan test sticks to be packed. At a time when there is no work, people living in the slum are managing to pack it with their own hands. Ever since lockdown and other curbs being imposed, people have lost their jobs. This gives them something to do when they are at home along with some money, with which they are able to afford vegetables to eat.
— Dr.Rajeev Sharma (@dr_rajeevsharma) May 5, 2021
According to the report, around 5,000 swab sticks have been distributed to each household. After packing these sticks for a whole day, they barely manage to earn Rs 100. Keswani, who owns a godown nearby the Ulhasnagar slum, distributes these sticks among people.
How sterile are these sticks?
While people living here may have found a means to earn little money, the method of packaging does not seem to provide any kind of sterile environment. The instructions given to people like “do not touch cotton end,” “do not let dust enter,” “hold the stick from between” are not enough to ensure the safety of these swab sticks used for detecting.
The Medical Devices Rules, 2017 (Form MD-5) states the stick comes under low to moderate risk devices and needs a sterile environment for production. However, people were seen placing them on the floor and using bare hands packing.
What are the risks involved?
Citing Dr Anupa Dixit, chief scientist at Suburban Diagnostics, the report highlighted that if the sticks are touched with bare hands, the sticks are likely to get dirty. Also, the person himself is infected with COVID-19, the swab can infect the person who takes the test. To be sure, these swab sticks are put in the mouth and nasal cavity to collect samples for testing. Dixit also feared that the significant rise in RT-PCR tests may lead smaller hospitals as well as labs to opt for whatever kits they receive.
Meanwhile, Ulhasnagar Municipal Corporation (UMC) has seized all the swab stick stock from five households of this slum whereas, the supplier Keswani is booked under Indian Penal code and Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897. The officials have informed that these packages have ‘Bio-Swab’ written on them. It was found that no company with this name has been registered with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Everyone in private hospitals, chemists and labs have been directed to not procure any kit with this name.