Indian lab develops COVID-19 test kit, cheaper and faster

Indian lab develops COVID-19 test kit, cheaper and fasterChitra GeneLAMP-N - COVID-19 Test Kit developed by Sree Chitra Tirunal Institute of Medical Sciences & Technology

N.B. Nair

Thiruvananthapuram (ISJ): An Indian centre for advanced medical specialities and technologies has developed a cheap diagnostic kit for COVID-19, which is capable of detecting the infection just in 10 minutes.

Sree Chitra Tirunal Institute of Medical Sciences and Technology (SCTIMST) in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala which developed the cost effective kit named Chitra GeneLAMP-N detects N-Gene of SARAS-COV2 using reverse transcriptase loop-mediated amplification of viral nucleic acid (RT-LAMP).

"RT-LAMP technology is pretty old. It is used in different diagnoses. But using this technology for N-gene, to our knowledge is for the first time in the world," Anoop Kumar. T, Head of Molecular Medicine at the Biomedical Technology Wing of SCTIMST told Indian Science Journal.

"The test kit which is highly specific for SARS-CoV-2 N-gene can detect two regions of the gene which will ensure that the test does not fail even if one region of the viral gene undergoes mutation during its current spread," he added.

Centre for Disease Control, USA, recommends detection of 2 regions of N-gene for confirmation of COVID-19 by any gene amplification technology. The current Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) kits in India enable detection of E gene for screening and RdRp gene for confirmation. Chitra GeneLAMP-N gene testing would allow confirmation in one test without the need for a screening test and at much lower costs.

The entire kit costs around INR 250,000 ($3,265) and an additional INR 5-600,000 ($6,530-$7,840) for bio-safety cabinet. Each test would cost less than INR 1,000 ($13). The cost of test kit available now ranges between INR 1.5 million to 4 million (around $20,000 to $52,250).

Anoop Kumar said, the kit has been tested for 100 percent concordance among true positive and true negative samples, the benchmark fixed by Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) for commercial use in the country.

The testing facility could be easily set up even in the laboratories of district hospitals with limited facilities and trained technicians. The results can be read from the machine from the change in fluorescence.

The new test kit takes 10 minutes for the gene detection time and less than 2 hours for sample to result time -from RNA extraction in swab to RT LAMP detection time. It can test 30 samples in a single batch in a single machine and the significantly lower machine waiting time allows testing of a large number of samples each day in multiple shifts.

"It is suitable for hospitals and airports, where large number of samples can be tested easily and could avoid quarantine for suspected COVID-19 cases.

SCIMST has already transferred the technology to a commercial developer, who has to get the license for the product from ICMR.

Image courtesy: Sree Chitra Tirunal Institute of Medical Sciences & Technology

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