CAPE TOWN- A team of scientists in India have developed a fast and inexpensive paper-based Covid-19 test which will soon be available across the country. Many are hopeful that it will help turn the tide on the pandemic in one of the world’s worst-hit nations.
The locally developed test named Feluda, is similar to a home pregnancy paper-strip test and delivers results within an hour, however it will still require a nasal swab to be collected and sent to a lab.
A research team led by Debojyoti Chakraborty and Souvik Maiti of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and researchers from the Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology found that the test is effective 96-98% of the time.
India has recorded more than 7.7 million Covid-19 infections, second only to the United States. Deaths in the country are over 116 000.
The new test uses gene-editing technology uses a technique called CRISPR-Cas9, short form for Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats.
Crispr technology latches on to a set of letters of a gene carrying the signature of the novel coronavirus, highlights it, and indicates the results on a piece of paper. Two blue lines means the test is positive, while a single blue line means the test has returned negative.
The product has been granted government regulatory approval and Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said it could be available within the next few weeks. India will be one of the first countries in the world to begin mass use of such a test.
While the price has yet to be determined, local media said it could cost around 500 rupees or R110. This new testing method would cut the cost of current polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing by a fifth.
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