Indian researchers develop probe-free assay for cost-effective diagnosis of COVID-19

Indian researchers develop probe-free assay for cost-effective diagnosis of COVID-19

Researchers from Kusuma School of Biological Sciences at Indian Institute of Technology Delhi (IIT-D) have developed a new probe-free detection assay for diagnosis of COVID-19 which can reduce the cost, making it affordable for large sections.

The test is being validated by the National Institute of Virology (NIV), Pune on clinical samples.

The test has been optimised and tested for sensitivity at the research laboratories of IIT-D.

With the help of comparative sequence analysis, the researchers identified unique regions in the COVID-19 virus SARS CoV-2 which helps in specifically detecting the infection.

“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 the infection,” said Professor Vivekanandan Perumal, lead member of the team to a source.

“Once the NIV validates the assay, it can be quickly scaled up to meet the increasing need in our country,” he added.

The current testing methods available are “probe-based”, explains Professor Manoj Menon, The new “probe-free” analysis method developed by the team allows for the test to be cost-effective without compromising on its accuracy, he added.

Primer sets targeting unique regions in the spike protein of COVID-19 virus 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 genomes of the virus.

“This assay can be used as a qualitative assay without the need for extensive instrumentation. In addition, it can also quantitatively assess virus loads. We propose the use of this assay for specific and affordable high throughput screening of COVID 19,” says the researchers.

The central government has recommended that the maximum charge for a COVID-19 test by private laboratories should not exceed ₹4,500.

All private laboratories which have NABL (National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories) accreditation for real-time PCR (polymerase chain reaction) assay for RNA virus will be allowed to conduct COVID-19 tests, according to the guidelines issued by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) for COVID-19 testing in private laboratories.