Indian Scientists Develop New Paper-Based Test For COVID-19

Author: Muhammad Rehan Mian (MSPH) | October 8, 2020

Feluda, a paper-based COVID-19 test kit, would return results in under one hour with costing 500 Indian Rupees ($6.75). It has fast results similar to a pregnancy test. The news report published by BBC (Asia) on October 4, 2020, stated that it could be a ‘game-changer’.

The news report also mentioned that it could be the World’s first paper-based COVID-19 test available in the market and will be produced by the leading industries of India. In preliminary trials, the test specificity and sensitivity were found 98% and 96% respectively, showing the accuracy of the test on samples from about 2000 patients. The commercial use of the test has been cleared by India’s drug regulatory authority. India, the country with the world’s second-highest COVID-19 case-load with more than 100,000 people in the country died of the disease so far, initially started with a low number of daily tests but it has been crossed a million samples test a day in more than 1200 laboratories across the country. They are using two types of tests for the detection of COVD-19: The first one is a PCR swab test, and the second one is a speedy antigen test. The PCR test is reliable but causes up to 2400 Indian rupees per sample. It has low false-positive and low false-negative results. The antigen test is cheaper but generates false negative results than the PCR test. To scale up testing in India does not mean that it is accessible, affordable, and available to everybody everywhere in India.

The new test has the same reliability of PCR and is a simple precise, reliable, scalable, and frugal test. Sample selection for this paper-based test will be similar to the PCR test that is a nasal swab inserted a few inches into the nose to check the coronavirus. The regulatory authorities of India still do not allow the COVID-19 test from saliva samples.

The new feluda test uses a crispa that is a short form of clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats to detect the virus. This crispa is used as a diagnostic tool and two blue lines indicate a positive result whereas a single blue line means the test has returned negative.

The developed countries like the US and UK are developing similar paper strips that can be cheap, and mass-produced with high accessibility, availability, and affordability. But still, we need a vaccine as a panacea for COVID-19.

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