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Portable Covid testing kit by IIT Kharagpur at less than Rs 400 per test

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Portable Covid testing kit by IIT Kharagpur at less than Rs 400 per testNew Delhi, July 26 (PTI) Researchers at IIT Kharagpur have developed a first of its kind portable rapid diagnostic device to detect coronavirus at less than Rs 400 per test.

According to officials, the test can be conducted in an ultra-low-cost portable enclosure as an alternative to specialized laboratory equipment. The same portable unit can be used for a large number of tests on mere replacement of the paper cartridge after each test.

“The device has been proven to produce no false result with remarkable accuracy and sensitivity compatible to standard RT-PCR tests. This test has an unprecedented low cost of less than Rs 400 per test, taking all components of expenses and business model into account,” said Suman Chakraborty from the Mechanical Engineering Department, IIT Kharagpur.

“Considering the impending outbreak of COVID-19 infection at progressively more geographical locations, with the anticipated increment in number of affected personnel at a dramatic rate, there is an emergent need to run large numbers of reliable diagnostic tests at affordable cost and minimal infrastructural support, for monitoring the early stages of progression of the disease when many of the infected persons do not exhibit discernible symptoms,” Chakraborty added.

However, the testing technologies currently in use are expensive, despite the innovations in low-cost testing kits as the actual testing machinery cost remains high. Further testing mechanism has logistical issues due to the infrastructural requirement of the testing centres.

A team of researchers from IIT Kharagpur realized the alternative cannot be new innovations for the existing detection systems such as testing kits and PCR machines but a disruptive approach leading to a new technology and testing process being innovated, he said.

The technology used by the IIT researchers deploys a disposable simple paper-strip for chemical analysis and visualization of results.

“The entire test can be conducted in an ultra-low-cost portable enclosure as an alternative to specialized laboratory equipment. The same portable unit can be used for a large number of tests, on mere replacement of the paper cartridge after each test.

“The new device has been designed to be usable at locations with extremely poor resources in an uncontrolled environment, catering the needs of the underserved population. Moreover, it can be operated by minimally trained personnel, precluding the needs for skilled technicians,” Chakraborty said.

The research team has successfully validated the detection procedure, taking time of approximately 60 minutes to run each test.

“This obviates the need of an expensive PCR machine, by means of a set of innovations such as a portable automated pre-programmable temperature control unit for viral testing, introduction of a special detection unit based on genomic analysis, and a customized smartphone application for dissemination of test results without requiring manual interpretation.

“While the institute can produce the testing kit up to a certain scale, patent licensing will facilitate commercialization opportunities for medical technology companies. The equipment by IIT Kharagpur researchers will cost about Rs 2000 if a pilot facility is used. Use of a large-scale commercial facility will further reduce with increase in the production scale. This compares very favourably with the RT PCR machine costing Rd 15 Lakh.

Arindam Mondal, Assistant Professor, School of Bio Science, IIT Kharagpur, added, “The unique portable device has not only been validated for the diagnostics of COVID-19, but also been designed to be capable of detecting any other kind of RNA virus by following the same generic procedure. The impact of this is long lasting, empowered by the capability of detecting unforeseen viral pandemics in the coming years that may potentially endanger human lives time and again.”

“This unique innovation is aligned with the Institutional vision to develop high-end healthcare technologies that can be afforded by the ailing common people all around the globe at virtually no cost, and is likely to make significant breakthrough in global viral pandemic management,” said Director V K Tewari.

The results from this new technology have been strictly validated by following all established laboratory controls against the benchmarked results obtained from RT-PCR machine, using synthetic viral RNA.

The synthetic RNA is exactly the same replicate of the viral RNA extracted from infected patients, as per accepted scientific benchmarking procedure, and is used for validating laboratory tests to avoid undue contamination and danger due to spreading of infection while handling sensitive body-fluid samples. PTI GJS AAR AAR

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