Researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology have developed a method to detect COVID-19 which can significantly reduce the test cost making it affordable for large sections. The National Institute of Virology (NIV), Pune is in the process of validating this test on clinical samples. The "probe-free detection assay" developed by the researchers at the prestigious institute's Kusuma School of Biological Sciences has been optimised and tested for sensitivity at the research laboratories of the Institute. According to the team, considering the scale of the ongoing pandemic, development of indigenous kits is the need of the hour.
 
What
  1. The central government on 21 March 2020 recommended that the maximum charge for each COVID-19 test by private laboratories should not exceed Rs 4,500.
  2. All private laboratories which have NABL accreditation for real-time PCR SA for RNA virus will be allowed to conduct COVID-19 tests.
  3. According to the guidelines issued by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) for COVID-19 testing in private laboratories, which were notified by the Health Ministry on 21 March 2020 night.
  4. However, the team at IIT claims that their test can be performed at a much cheaper cost and hence will be affordable for the general public.
  5. 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.
  6. Once the NIV validates the assay, it can be quickly scaled up to meet the increasing need in our country.
Flashback
  1. The National Institute of Virology is one of the major Institutes of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR)
  2. It was established at Pune, Maharashtra State in 1952 as Virus Research Centre (VRC) under the auspices of the ICMR and the Rockefeller Foundation (RF), USA. 
  3. It was an outcome of the global programme of the RF for investigating the Arthropod Borne viruses. 
  4. Since the studies on arboviruses and their arthropod vectors involve most of the basic principles and techniques of general virology, entomology and zoology, these viruses were also considered to be an ideal group, to begin with, for intensive training and research in virology in our country. 
  5. The RF withdrew its support in 1967 and since then the Institute is entirely funded by the ICMR.