New Delhi: Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan on Sunday said that rollout of the indigenously-developed faster and cheaper “FELUDA” Covid-19 test is expected in the next few weeks.
“While I cannot put an exact date on the availability, we should expect this test within the next few weeks,” he said.
The FNCAS9 Editor-Limited Uniform Detection Assay (FELUDA) test is a paper strip test, similar to a pregnancy test, and has been approved by the Drug Controller General of India for a commercial launch.
Named after the renowned detective created by Satyajit Ray, the test was developed by Tata CRISPR (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats) and the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research’s (CSIR) Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology (IGIB).
Developed by Dr Souvik Maiti and Dr Debojyoti Chakraborty at the CSIR-IGIB, FELUDA has been touted to provide results in 45 minutes and is priced Rs 500.
Harsh Vardhan also said that based on tests of over 2,000 patients during the trials at the IGIB and on testing in private labs, the test showed 96 per cent sensitivity and 98 per cent specificity. He also said that the test has already been validated by the Department of Atomic Energy’s Bengaluru-based National Centre for Biological Sciences, Bangalore.
FELUDA is an alternative to the quantitative RT-PCR tests and experts found it highly specific. As per the experts, it is capable of detecting low copy number nucleic acids (less viral RNA quantity) as well as single nucleotide variations. It can distinguish between SARS-CoV-2 and SARS-CoV sequences which differ by a single nucleotide.
While RT-PCR needs a few hours, trained manpower and a dedicated and expensive machine, FELUDA provides similar sensitivity and specificity but requires only a basic widely available PCR machine and no extensively trained manpower.