Kerala Institute says it Has a Faster Test

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New Delhi:

A Kerala-based institute has developed a diagnostic test for Covid-19 which it claims can furnish results in less than half the time taken by the method currently being used in the country and for a fraction of its cost — ₹1,000.

The test, developed by Thiruvananthapuram-based Sree Chitra Tirunal Institute for Medical Sciences and Technology, takes less than two hours to confirm presence of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, for which there is no vaccine yet. If the diagnostic test gets approval from the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), it can help speed up testing for the novel coronavirus in the country.

At present, India is using the RT-PCR (reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction) method for SARS-CoV-2 test. The time taken from collection of a swab sample till the final result is over five hours.

RT-PCR is also an expensive test as the machines required are imported and expensive.

In private laboratories, the test costs ₹4,500. The institute’s test will cost just ₹1,000.

Institute director Asha Kishore told ET: “The test developed by us will be India’s first — and maybe one of first few in the world — confirmatory diagnostic test for N gene of SARS-CoV-2 using RTLAMP technique. This technology is much faster than RT-PCR. The test kit can detect two regions of the gene which would ensure that the test cannot fail.”

The test would not have any false negatives and would be 100% confirmatory. Commercial production of the test kit, according to Kishore, could begin within the month. “We are awaiting an approval of ICMR. The test kit has passed all validation at National Institute of Virology Alleppey,” Kishore said.

The most encouraging factor would be its low cost. The test is run on a machine which costs ₹2.5 lakh compared with the ₹15-30-lakh machine needed for RT-PCR tests.