A fast and cheap coronavirus testing kit that can provide results in 40 minutes has been launched in Delhi today. The indigenously developed testing kit for coronavirus based on the gene-editing technology CRISPR called Feluda has been launched by Tata group in collaboration with the Apollo group of hospitals, reported Hindustan Times.
The kit will be marketed as “TataMD’s CHECK”, Tata Medical and Diagnostics Ltd (TataMD) had announced earlier.
The test is likely to be cheaper than the current gold standard RT-PCR and equally accurate, helping in scaling up Covid-19 testing as it would need a machine that is widely available with laboratories and science institutions, the report said.
According to a statement by TataMD, the testing kit is an ICMR-approved and DCGI-certified, highly COVID-19 viral detection test with a sensitivity and specificity that is at par with qPCR.
“TataMD CHECK will be especially useful in rapid turnaround situations like airports, hospitals, universities, and camps where quick delivery of results is critical in order to reduce waiting times for patients. Accessible and accurate results will allow for better testing strategies that mean people can return to everyday activities,” the statement said.
The new kit has a high sensitivity of 96% and specificity of 98%, meaning it can accurately detect both positive and negative cases. It was approved for use by the Indian Council of Medical Research in September. A team of researchers from the Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology named the test Feluda after the eponymous Bengali fictional detective, reported HT.
Similar CRISPR based Covid-19 tests have been approved for emergency use by the US Food and Drug Administration. Called “Sherlock” after the English fictional detective Sherlock Holmes, the American test uses Cas-13 (Fledua instead uses Cas-9) to detect the virus, the report said.
According to the report, once a swab sample is collected from a patient, the RNA is extracted from it and amplified using a thermocycler. The sample is then tested using a paper strip that is barcoded with the Cas-9 protein coded to recognise genetic material of the Sars-CoV-2 virus to get the result. The strip displays lines to show whether a person has the virus that causes Covid-19, just like a home-based pregnancy testing kit.
“The workflow has been simplified with this kit. Although a lab is still needed, it can be performed in small mobile labs,” Dr Debjyoti Chakraborty, one of the scientists who developed the kit, told HT.
“TataMD will produce the test kits under secure, state-of-the-art production facility (facilities) in Tamil Nadu, India that has been commissioned with a capacity of 10 million test kits. The company is building a strong distribution network through partnerships with trade channels and direct sales….” TataMD had said in a statement.