Feluda paper strip test for COVID-19 to be available in Indian markets by November-end

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The Feluda paper strip test to diagnose COVID-19, which is being touted as a "cheaper, faster alternative to RT-PCR" has entered Delhi markets today, and will be available in other Indian states by November-end. The Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan said in an earlier statement that the Feluda test showed 96 percent sensitivity and 98 percent specificity in tests on over 2,000 patients during its human trials at the Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology (IGIB). This means it can accurately detect both positive and negative cases.

"[The results] compare favourably to ICMR's current acceptation criteria of RT-PCR Kit of at least 95 percent sensitivity and at least 99 percent specificity," Dr Vardhan said at a press briefing in October. He added that the Feluda paper strip test for SARS-CoV-2 diagnosis developed by CSIR-IGIB has been approved by the Drug Controller General of India for a commercial launch.

"The kit has already been validated by the Department of Atomic Energy's National Centre for Biological Sciences, Bangalore. While I cannot put an exact date on the availability, we should expect this test within the next few weeks," he said.

'FELUDA' is an acronym for FNCAS9 Editor Linked Uniform Detection Assay. The paper-strip test is the world's first diagnostic test to use a specially-adapted Cas9 protein to seek out the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Because of its high specificity and accuracy, the Feluda paper strip is far superior and way more accurate than the rapid antigen test, and almost as quick in returning results.

Priced at Rs 500 per test, the paper-strip can return results in 45 minutes. It can also differentiate SARS-CoV-2 from other coronaviruses even if genetic variations between them are very minute.

The paper-strip test was given approved for use by the Indian Council of Medical Research in September. It has been positioned as a cheaper, faster and simpler alternative to an RT-PCR diagnosis, which, in India, is riddled with inaccuracies due to sample collection and human error.

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