In a unique effort, researchers at IIT-Kharagpur have developed a first-of-its-kind portable rapid diagnostic device that can detect Covid-19 within an hour. This ultra-low cost device will bring the testing for Covid-19 out from the walls of expensive laboratories and RT-PCR machines and enable testing at affordable costs for the under-served communities across the world.
This test can be conducted for less than Rs 400 per test, after taking all components of expenses and business model into account. The results can then be accessed from a customised smartphone application, without requiring manual interpretation.
The device is capable of conducting the test in an ultra-low-cost portable enclosure as an alternative to highly expensive RT-PCR machine. The same portable unit can be used for a large number of tests, on mere replacement of the paper cartridge after each test. The design of the new device enables its use in locations with extremely poor resources, catering to the needs of the under-served communities. Moreover, it can be operated by minimally-trained personnel, precluding the need for skilled technicians.
The device has been proven to produce no false result with remarkable accuracy and sensitivity. The research team has successfully validated the detection procedure, taking approximately 60 minutes to run each test. While the institute can produce the testing kit up to a certain scale, patent licensing will facilitate commercialisation opportunities for medical technology companies.
Prof. Suman Chakraborty from the Mechanical Engineering Department, IIT Kharagpur, and Dr. Arindam Mondal from the School of Bio Science, IIT Kharagpur, came up with the concept. The technology essentially deploys a disposable simple paper-strip for chemical analysis and visualisation of results.
“The unique portable device developed by the IIT Kharagpur researchers 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, therefore, 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,” said Dr Mondal.
The project received financial support from the institute in late April as Prof. V K Tewari, Director, IIT Kharagpur, decided to set up a fund to support Covid-19 related research and product development.
“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,” opined Prof. V K Tewari.
The Ministry of Human Resources Development (HRD) has also been reaching out to all technical institutions regarding ongoing research work to help address India’s increasing need to augment testing facilities.
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.
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