In­dia’s new pa­per COVID-19 test could be a ‘game changer’

Daily Mirror (Sri Lanka) - - BUSINESS -

BBC: A team of sci­en­tists in In­dia has de­vel­oped an in­ex­pen­sive pa­per-based test for coro­n­avirus that could give fast re­sults sim­i­lar to a pregnancy test.

The test, named af­ter a fa­mous In­dian fic­tional de­tec­tive, is based on a gene-edit­ing tech­nol­ogy called Crispr. Sci­en­tists es­ti­mate that the kit - called Fe­luda - would re­turn re­sults in un­der an hour and cost 500 INR (about US $ 6.75; £ 5.25). Fe­luda will be made by a lead­ing In­dian con­glom­er­ate, Tata and could be the world’s first pa­per-based COVID-19 test avail­able in the mar­ket.

“This is a sim­ple, pre­cise,

re­li­able, scal­able and fru­gal test,” Pro­fes­sor K. Vi­jay Ragha­van, prin­ci­pal sci­en­tific ad­viser to the In­dian gov­ern­ment, told the BBC.

Re­searchers at the Delhi-based Csir-in­sti­tute of Ge­nomics and In­te­gra­tive Bi­ol­ogy (IGIB), where Fe­luda was de­vel­oped, as well as pri­vate labs, tried out the test on sam­ples from about 2,000 pa­tients, in­clud­ing ones who had al­ready tested pos­i­tive for the coro­n­avirus.

They found that the new test had 96 per­cent sen­si­tiv­ity and 98 per­cent speci­ficity. The ac­cu­racy of a test is based on these two pro­por­tions. A test that’s highly sen­si­tive will de­tect al­most ev­ery­one who has the dis­ease and a test that has high­speci­ficity will cor­rectly rule out al­most ev­ery­one who doesn’t have the dis­ease. The first en­sures not too many false neg­a­tive re­sults and the sec­ond not too many false pos­i­tives. In­dia’s drug reg­u­la­tor has cleared the test for com­mer­cial use.

With more than six mil­lion con­firmed in­fec­tions, In­dia has the world’s sec­ond-high­est COVID-19 caseload. More than 100,000 peo­ple in the coun­try have died of the dis­ease so far.

“The new test has the re­li­a­bil­ity of the PCR test, is quicker and can be done in smaller lab­o­ra­to­ries, which don’t have so­phis­ti­cated ma­chines,” Dr. Anurag Agar­wal, Di­rec­tor of IGIB, told the BBC. Sam­ple col­lec­tion for the Fe­luda test will be sim­i­lar to the PCR test - a nasal swab in­serted a few inches into the nose to check for coro­n­avirus in the back of the nasal pas­sage.

New Fe­luda test uses a gene-edit­ing tech­nol­ogy to de­tect the virus

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