Coronavirus: This COVID-19 test developed by IITians is affordably accurate
On Monday, the active COVID-19 cases in India have shot up to 425, and healthcare workers and researchers are working tirelessly to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus. Each day, the number of suspected cases is increasing exponentially, making the requirement for testing kits a desperate need of the hour.
The Indian Government on Saturday capped the cost of coronavirus tests at Rs 4,500 in private laboratories. These laboratories can only run the test if they have the NABL accreditation for real-time PCR SA for RNA virus, as per the guidelines set by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) for COVID-19.
Image: Edex Live
To that effect, IIT Delhi’s team of researchers has found a way that can further cut down these costs, making it affordable for the increasing mass of suspected cases. The laboratories at the institute are optimising this ‘probe-free-detection-assay’, and also testing its sensitivity. The National Institute of Virology, Pune, is validating the testing method based on clinical samples.
"Using comparative sequence analysis, we have identified unique regions in COVID-19. These unique regions are not present in other human coronaviruses, providing an opportunity to specifically detect COVID-19," Professor Vivekanandan Perumal, lead member of the team said, according to Edex Live. "Once the NIV validates the assay, it can be quickly scaled up to meet the increasing need in our country," he added.
The current methods used for detection are ‘probe-based’, while the method in question is a ‘probe-free’ kind. The latter can effectively reduce the cost without compromising the accuracy and does not require extensive instrumentation.
“Primer sets targeting unique regions in the spike protein of COVID-19 were designed and tested using real-time polymerase chain reaction. The primers designed by the group specifically bind to regions conserved in over 200 fully sequenced COVID-19 genomes. The sensitivity of this in-house assay is comparable to that of commercially available kits” Parul Gupta and Prashant Pradhan, members of the team, told The Hindu.
With a population of 1.3 billion, India is in dire need of testing kits, in case the situation at hand scales drastically. To date, about 16,911 samples have been tested in the world’s second most populated country.
(Edited by Suman Singh)