Coronavirus: a new quick and cheap test in India

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New Delhi | A quick, reliable and inexpensive test to detect the coronavirus with a test strip will soon be available in India where scientists have developed it to help counter the pandemic.

His name is “Feluda”, named after a popular detective character created by the great filmmaker Satyajit Ray (1921-1992), and scientific acronym (FNCAS9 Editor-Limited Uniform Detection Assay).

It uses the CRISPR-Cas9 “molecular scissors” technique, developed by two geneticists, the Frenchwoman Emmanuelle Charpentier and the American Jennifer Doudna, who have just been awarded the Nobel Prize in chemistry.

This kit, which works from nasal swab samples, looks like a home pregnancy test with its strip where two colored lines appear if the result is positive and provides the results within an hour.

“This test does not require any sophisticated equipment or highly skilled manpower,” explains its co-inventor Souvik Maiti, of the CSIR-Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology (IGIB), the Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology of the Council of New Delhi’s scientific and industrial research.

“Many remote places in India have no sophisticated labs,” he continues. The test “will be much easier to deploy, it will have a much higher penetration”.

With more than 7.5 million cases, India is the second most infected country in the world behind the United States. The disease has spread from cities to rural areas where health services are limited.

Scientists hope the test will help detect the virus in the poorest regions of the country of 1.3 billion people.

India currently uses RT-PCR virological tests, the gold standard tests that require advanced laboratory equipment, as well as antigen tests, which are much faster because they do not require laboratory analysis but also less precise. The first tests detect the genetic material of the coronavirus while the second detect proteins of the virus.

The Feluda test, like others in development also in several other countries, is seen as a major breakthrough in India as it has the reliability of PCR testing with the accessibility of antigen testing.

It has received the green light from Indian regulatory authorities. Health Minister Harsh Vardhan assured last week that he could be deployed to the country by the Tata conglomerate in the coming weeks.

Its price has not been published but, according to local media, it could cost around 500 rupees (5.8 euros). A PCR test can cost as much as 2,400 rupees at a private lab in New Delhi.

For now, the prototype requires the use of a thermal cycler, or PCR machine, but scientists are working on a saliva-based or self-swabbing version that can be used at home, said Debojyoti Chakraborty, co -inventor and scientist of IGIB.

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