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IIT-D team develops cheaper COVID-19 test

‘Probe-free detection assay’ sent to NIV, Pune

Researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology here have developed a method to detect COVID-19 that can significantly reduce the test cost, making it affordable for large sections.

The National Institute of Virology, Pune, is in the process of validating this test on clinical samples.

The “probe-free detection assay” has been optimised and tested for sensitivity at the research laboratories of IIT.

The Centre on Saturday recommended that the maximum charge for a COVID-19 test by private laboratories should not exceed Rs. 4,500.

However, the team at IIT claimed their test could be performed at a much cheaper cost. “Using comparative sequence analysis, we have identified unique regions in COVID-19. These unique regions are not present in other human coronaviruses, providing an opportunity to specifically detect COVID-19,” said Prof. Vivekanandan Perumal, lead member of the team.

‘Accurate results’

According to Professor Manoj Menon, the current testing methods available are “probe-based”, while the one developed by his team is “probe-free”, which reduces the testing cost without compromising on accuracy. “Primer sets targeting unique regions in the spike protein of COVID-19 were designed and tested using real time polymerase chain reaction. The primers designed by the group specifically bind to regions conserved in over 200 fully sequenced COVID-19 genomes. The sensitivity of this in-house assay is comparable to that of commercially available kits,” said Parul Gupta and Prashant Pradhan, members of the team.

“This assay can be used as a qualitative (yes or no) assay without the need for extensive instrumentation. In addition, it can also quantitatively assess virus loads,” they added.

The research team also includes Ashutosh Pandey, Praveen Tripathi, Akhilesh Mishra, James Gomes and Bishwajit Kundu.

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