New Delhi: India’s CRISPR ‘Feluda’ COVID-19 test is more accurate than a rapid antigen test, scientists have said. It could become a cheaper, faster and simpler alternative to an RT-PCR diagnosis of the novel coronavirus.
The ‘Feluda’ test, termed after eminent writer and director Satyajit Ray’s famous detective character, is priced at Rs 500 and can deliver a result in 45 minutes. The test can also differentiate SARS-CoV-2 from other coronaviruses even though genetic variations between them are small.
The test — developed by New Delhi-based CSIR-Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology (IGIB) and the Tata Group — is like a pregnancy strip test; it changes colour if the SARS-CoV-2 virus is detected.
Debojyoti Chakraborty, one of the developers of the test and a senior scientist at CSIR-IGIB, told PTI that the test has shown 96 per cent sensitivity and 98 per cent specificity for detecting the novel coronavirus.
“The CRISPR technology uses a highly specific CAS9 protein to find and bind to the target COVID signature. This is then coupled with paper-strip chemistry to elicit a visual readout on a paper strip,” he further said.
Virologist Upasana Ray remarked that the Feluda test is cheaper than RT-PCR, which costs Rs 1600 and above.
“Feluda is an alternative to the quantitative RT-PCR tests and is highly specific. It is capable of detecting low copy number nucleic acids (less viral RNA quantity) as well as single nucleotide variations,” Ray, a senior scientist at CSIR-IICB, Kolkata, was quoted as saying.
“This marks a significant achievement for the Indian scientific community, moving from R&D to a high-accuracy, scalable and reliable test in less than 100 days. The Tata CRISPR test achieves accuracy levels of traditional RT-PCR tests, with quicker turnaround time, less expensive equipment, and better ease of use,” the statement released by the researchers said.