India creates cheap and quick test for coronavirus

October 19, 2020

Indian researchers have developed a cheap paper-based test for the coronavirus which would hopefully help millions across the country detect and keep infections under control. Known as Feluda, the test’s sample collection involves the use of a nasal swab inserted deep into the nose – similar to current gold-standard polymerase chain reaction (PCR) swab tests – and then subject to gene-editing technology to confirm the presence of the virus.

Costing less than US$0.10, Feluda will be manufactured by leading Indian company Tata, and could become the world’s first paper-based COVID-19 test available in the market.

Feluda was developed by researchers at the Delhi-based CSIR-Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology (IGIB). The researchers said that it had 96% sensitivity and 98% specificity when tested on samples from about 2,000 patients, including some already positive cases. A highly sensitive test can detect almost everyone who has the disease, while a high-specificity test can rule out everyone who doesn’t have the disease; the first round of the test rules out false negatives and the second round false positives.

Dr. Anant Bhan, a researcher in global health and health policy, said that there are long wait times and unavailability of Feluda kits across the country at the moment. The kits could, however, end up replacing the speedy antigen test as it is cheaper and more accurate.

India’s drug regulator already authorised Feluda for commercial use. The country is the world’s second-highest in confirmed infections of COVID-19 and is now testing a million samples a day, using two different tests.


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