Coronavirus: Indian scientists develop low-cost paper-strip test for COVID-19 testing

The CSIR lab based in Delhi is hoping that this new innovation will speed up the entire testing process to detect coronavirus cases early

Indian scientists from the Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology (IGIB) have successfully developed a low-cost, paper strip test which can detect the raging coronavirus within an hour. This would allow increased rapid testing in the country.

According to a report in Mint, the said COVID-19 test uses the cutting-edge, gene-editing tool - Crispr-Cas9 to target and identify the genomic sequences of the novel coronavirus in the samples of suspected individuals.

IGIB is Council of Scientific and Industrial Research's (CSIR) premier laboratory based in New Delhi. According to the report, the kit is similar to a portable paper strip test used to confirm pregnancy and does not require any different specialised skill to perform, and is relatively less-sophisticated.

Speaking to the daily, Debjyoti Chakraborty of IGIB said, “We have been working on this tool for around two years. But, in late January, when the outbreak hit its peak in China, we began testing it to see if it can work for COVID-19. It took us around two months to come up with these results."

According to the scientist, unlike most of the rapid tests which require dedicated machinery, this can be performed using standard equipment available in every pathological laboratory.

The team led by Souvik Maiti and Debjyoti Chakraborty is currently testing the kit in a patient cohort for its accuracy and sensitivity and hope to seek validation from a regulatory body of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) within a week.

Unlike the real-time PCR test currently being used for diagnosis of COVID-19 in India which costs about Rs 4,500, the paper strip test costs less than Rs 500. Further, it does not depend on expensive real-time PCR machines for RNA isolation, DNA conversion, and amplification which are already in limited supply.

There has been vigorous research across the world to speed up the testing technologies to detect coronavirus as the infected people across the world crossed one million on Thursday.

At present, India has reported about 2,088 positive coronavirus cases and 56 deaths.

(Edited by Suman Singh)