India currently has two testing methods - the RT-PCR and the rapid antigen tests.
IIT-KGP has said that the efficacy of the test’s method has been validated by the ICMR. (Image: IIT KGP Twitter)
Coronavirus testing: Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur’s COVID-19 diagnostic test could be a game changer! IIT-Kharagpur has developed a new diagnostic test called COVIRAP for coronavirus, and it can help bring high-end molecular diagnostics technology out of the labs and into the fields, according to a report by IE. The institute has said that the efficacy of the test’s method has been validated by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), the report added.
How does COVIRAP work?
The test contains an automated pre-programmable unit to control temperature, a genomic analysis special detection unit, and a smartphone app customised for the results.
The report cited IIT-Kharagpur’s Dean of Sponsored Research and Industrial Consultancy Prof Suman Chakraborty as saying that there are three master mixes which work as markers of different genes in order to confirm whether SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus causing COVID-19, is present.
Assistant Professor at IIT-Kharagpur School of Bioscience Dr Arindam Mondal was cited as saying that the technology has undergone rigorous testing protocols as directed by the ICMR guidelines.
COVID-19 testing: Significance of IIT-Kharagpur’s test
India currently has two testing methods – the RT-PCR and the rapid antigen tests. While the RT-PCR tests are accurate, they require lab infrastructure which is advanced. On the other hand, rapid antigen can produce results quickly, but the accuracy levels are low.
The report cited IIT-Kharagpur Director Prof V K Tiwari as saying that the process of testing with COVIRAP can be completed within an hour. Moreover, the test’s unit is ultra-low-cost and portable, and it can be operated outside the laboratory by unskilled operators as well. Prof Tiwari said that the test unit is an alternative to the high-end machines used for RT-PCR. Samples in open fields can also be tested using COVIRAP, and a single unit can help in testing a large number of samples after simply replacing the paper cartridge after every test.
The machine, which has been patented by the institute, has been made very generic, and it can be used to test other infections as well, including dengue, influenza, TB, Japanese encephalitis and malaria.
COVIRAP vs FELUDA
The FELUDA test, developed by the Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology, is also meant to detect genes specific to the novel coronavirus with minimal technical expertise. The FELUDA test uses the CRISPR-CAS technology, and its current prototype needs to be processed using a PCR machine. However, COVIRAP uses a separate detection technology, which has been developed and patented by IIT-Kharagpur, the report said.
Prof Chakraborty said that the method used by their test contains certain components that are exclusive to it and are different from the CRISPR-CAS technology.