Responding to the critical shortage of COVID-19 testing kits, researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology in Delhi announced the development of a method to significantly reduce the cost of testing for the virus, making it affordable for large sections.
The National Institute of Virology, Pune, is in the process of validating this test on clinical samples.
The “probe-free detection assay” has been optimised and tested for sensitivity at the research laboratories of IIT. According to the team, considering the scale of the ongoing pandemic, development of indigenous kits is the need of the hour.
The Indian government on Saturday recommended that the maximum charge for a COVID-19 test by private laboratories should not exceed INR 4,500.
All private laboratories which have National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories (NABL) approval for real-time PCR SA for RNA virus will be allowed to conduct COVID-19 tests, according to the guidelines issued by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) for COVID-19 testing in private laboratories, which were notified by the Health Ministry on Saturday night.
However, the team at IIT claimed that their test can be performed at a much cheaper cost. “Using comparative sequence analysis, we have identified unique regions in COVID-19. These unique regions are not present in other human coronaviruses providing an opportunity to specifically detect COVID-19,” said Professor Vivekanandan Perumal, lead member of the team. “Once the NIV validates the assay, it can be quickly scaled up to meet the increasing need in our country,” he added.
According to Professor Manoj Menon, the current testing methods available are “probe-based”, while the one developed by his team is “probe-free”, which reduces the testing cost without compromising on accuracy.
The research team also includes Ashutosh Pandey, Praveen Tripathi, Akhilesh Mishra, James Gomes and Bishwajit Kundu.