Coronavirus: Scientists in India develop paper-based test, gives results in an hour

A health worker in personal protective equipment (PPE) collects a swab sample from a woman during a rapid antigen testing campaign for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Mumbai, India, September 7, 2020. (Reuters)

A paper-based coronavirus test developed by a team of scientists in India could give patients results in less than 60 minutes.

The test, originally reported on by the BBC, would cost around $6.75. It is named Feluda after a famous Indian fictional detective and is based on a gene-editing technology called Crispr. So far, the team has tried the test on about 2,000 patients, including some who had previously tested positive for coronavirus.

“This is a simple, precise, reliable, scalable and frugal test,” Professor K Vijay Raghavan, principal scientific adviser to the Indian government, told the BBC.

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In India, the standard PCR testing kits have not been readily available and the antigen tests that have been used as an alternative, but they have a problem with reporting a false negative.

But the new test, developed by researchers at the Delhi-based CSIR-Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology (IGIB), could be cheaper and more accurate than the antigen tests and could produce results in an hour.

“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.

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Where PCR tests have to be sent to a laboratory to be tested, the Feldua test uses Crispr, which is short for Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats. Crispr is a gene-editing technology that is used to detect the virus.

While primarily used to prevent infections and treat some diseases like sickle cell, when used as a diagnostic tool, the gene-editing “Crispr technology latches on to a set of letters of a gene carrying the signature of the novel coronavirus, highlights it, and gives a read-out on a piece of paper,” the BBC reported.

Similar paper strip tests that can be cheaply mass produced are also being developed in the US and the UK.

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Last Update: Tuesday, 06 October 2020 KSA 14:55 - GMT 11:55
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