Mr Simeon Ratnadurai
former Laboratory Technician 1994
The building was inadequate to house the laboratory.
The rooms were meant for some other purposes. For e.g., there was
a huge grinding stone in one room, which happened to be a kitchen.
This was so heavy it could not be shifted! So we chose to dig a
pit, bury this grinding stone and re-lay the floor! We had to plan
for the cold room, incubation room, sterilisation room and many
other rooms to cater to special facilities. Equipment came from
all over. With Dr K Padmanabha Rao, Mr Cobbold and Dr Nassau in
the lead, we re-ordered the rooms, unpacked, installed the equipment.
In March 1961, after eight months of grinding work, our laboratory
became fully operational, except for the cold room. In place of
the cold room, we used four huge Philco refrigerators.
We had to innovate as we went along. For e.g.,
the inspissator, which is used for cooking the media, was not available.
We also used a type of water bath so as to obtain a determined texture
of the media. We needed racks to array and keep literally hundreds
of McCartney bottles, so that reading, fetching, etc., would be
easy. We put our heads together, designed and got them done locally.
We had to devise sputum boxes, which are used to transport tightly
packed and ice protected sputum specimen from field to the distant
laboratory, fully protected from jerks and jolts of a bumpy ride.
We had other problems. We found the contamination rates very high.
We checked every step of the procedure and finally identified that
few water drops trapped in between the metal undersurface and rubber
lining of the McCartney bottle caps. It was obvious that in this
place, the sterilisation process was somehow incomplete. So we separated
the rubber lining from the metal cap, washed, dried and sterilised
them separately, then refitted them into the caps and sent them
for sterilisation again. With this we were able to check avoidable
contamination. Such operations finally led us to standardise many
procedures in the laboratory, which we now adopt as a matter of
Previously the concept was to collect 24 hour sputum
specimen. We found that the results were good enough if the specimen
collection was made on the spot. However, the sputum collector has
a special responsibility. The patients posture while standing
must be that he should place his arms on his hips while coughing
to bring out the sputum. The collection must be done in shade and
the sputum collector must have wind blowing away from him. I feel
that the work done in the NTI laboratory is of high quality. For
e.g., to prepare media, we do not buy eggs from the local market.
A vehicle will go to Hesaraghatta, 26 miles away, where only fresh
eggs are procured and brought for use in the media. The facilities
are very good, as befitting a national laboratory.