A fast and cheap paper-based COVID-19 test will soon be available across India, with scientists hopeful that it will help turn the tide on the pandemic in one of the world's worst-hit nations, AFP reported.
With 7.5 million COVID-19 cases India is only second to the US. The outbreak has spread rapidly in densely populated megacities like Mumbai and Delhi to rural communities with limited medical services.
“This test doesn't require any sophisticated equipment or highly trained manpower,” vaccine co-creator Souvik Maiti, a scientist at New Delhi's CSIR-Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology told AFP.
“There are lots of remote parts of India where you do not have any sophisticated laboratories ... will be much easier to deploy; it will have much more penetration,” Maiti added.
The test named Feluda, after a detective in a famous novel-series, resembles a home pregnancy test and informs the tester if they are positive or not in an hour.
India currently diagnoses COVID-19 with either RT-PCR tests, which are highly accurate but require advanced lab machinery or antigen tests. These can give results in a few minutes, but the accuracy rate is significantly low.
Feluda, which uses the gene-editing technique CRISPR-Cas9, has been granted government regulatory approval and Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said last week it could be rolled out in the next few weeks by Indian conglomerate Tata Group.
If made available within that time frame, India will be one of the first countries in the world to begin mass use of such a test.