With a substantial rise in the number of COVID-19 cases over the last few days, India has been challenged to conduct large-scale testing and that too rapidly. Coming to the country's rescue at such a crucial time are the scientists at the Council Of Scientific And Industrial Research (CSIR), New Delhi, as they have been successful in developing a paper-strip test that can detect the novel coronavirus within an hour.
A breakthrough in the tough fight against the fatal virus, the test will cost just Rs 500, making it affordable and accessible to a large chunk of our country's population. Currently, a COVID-19 test at a government authorized private laboratories costs Rs 4,500.
Details of the test
The CSIR scientists have used a cutting-edge gene-editing tool called Crispr-Cas9 that can easily identify the genomic sequences of the novel coronavirus or SARS-CoV-2 in the collected samples.
Dr. Debjyoti Chakraborty from CSIR's Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology (IGIB) has revealed that a team was working on the test kit for the past two years.
"In late January, when the outbreak hit its peak in China, we began testing it to see if it can work for COVID-19. It took us around two months to come up with these results," said the doctor from CSIR's premier laboratory in New Delhi.
According to Dr. Anurag Aggarwal, Director, CSIR-IGIB, the kit looks similar to the portable paper-strip test used to confirm pregnancy and is easy to use.
"Unlike most rapid tests require dedicated machinery, this can be performed using standard equipments available in every pathological laboratory or even Mohalla Clinics in Delhi. This is important because if the number of infections shoots up drastically, we would need tests that can be done in local facilities. We will have to bring the tests closer to the patients to reduce transmission and this is what it does," said Dr. Aggarwal.
The test is yet to be approved by the Indian Council Of Medical Research (ICMR).
Coronavirus outbreak worsens in India
India appears to be on the verge of community transmission of the deadly disease which could lead to an exponential rise in the COVID-19 case count. The country has been locked down for a period of 21-days to break the chain of the China-originated virus.
The number of positive cases has raced past the 2000-mark with Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Kerala being the most affected states.