An accurate and low-cost-based coronavirus test will soon be available in India. A research team of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR)- Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology (IGIB) and Tata Group has developed it and the test has been named ‘Feluda’ which is a fictional private detective in a series of popular Bengali novels, short stories Written by renowned filmmaker Satyajit Ray.
The paper-strip uses cutting-edge CRISPR gene-editing technology and is designed in such a way that it can detect the SARS-CoV-2 virus in less than an hour.
The government said in a statement, “Tata CRISPR test is the world’s first diagnostic test to deploy a specially adapted Cas9 protein to successfully detect the virus causing COVID-19,”
This testing method is similar to a pregnancy strip test. Feluda changes its color if the virus is detected and doesn’t need expensive machines for detection.
“This test doesn’t require any sophisticated equipment or highly trained manpower,” said co-creator Souvik Maiti, a scientist at New Delhi’s CSIR-IGIB.
“There are lots of remote parts of India where you do not have any sophisticated laboratories… (The test) will be much easier to deploy; it will have much more penetration,” he added.
Feluda is a combination of the accuracy of the PCR test with the accessibility of the antigen kits. The test has 96% sensitivity and 98% specificity for detecting viruses, the government statement added.
The government has given regulatory approval to feluda. Union health minister Harsh Vardhan said last week Indian conglomerate Tata Group could rule out this in the next few weeks.
India will be one of the first countries in the world to begin mass use of such a test if it is made available within that timeframe
It could cost around ₹500 — around a fifth of what a PCR test costs in New Delhi, the reports say.
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Virologist Upasana Ray said, “Feluda is an alternative to the quantitative RT-PCR tests and is highly specific. It is capable of detecting low copy number nucleic acids (less viral RNA quantity) as well as single nucleotide variations”
According to the researchers, “This marks a significant achievement for the Indian scientific community, moving from R&D to a high-accuracy, scalable and reliable test in less than 100 days. The Tata CRISPR test achieves accuracy levels of traditional RT-PCR tests, with quicker turnaround time, less expensive equipment, and better ease of use.”
The US granted emergency-use approval for the world’s first CRISPR-based test for COVID-19 in May, developed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Harvard University.