Researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology in Delhi have developed a cost-effective way of testing for COVID-19, a discovery that might help a larger cross section of people.
“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,” said Professor Vivekanandan Perumal, lead member of the team.
The research team at IIT’s Kusuma School of Biological Sciences also includes Manoj Menon, Parul Gupta, Prashant Pradhan, Ashutosh Pandey, Praveen Tripathi, Akhilesh Mishra, James Gomes and Bishwajit Kundu.
According to one of the researchers of the team, Manoj Menon, most of the current testing methodologies for the virus are ‘probe-based’. However, the one developed by his team is ‘probe-free.’ This factor greatly aids in reducing the costs of the tests without compromising on the accuracy of the results.
“Primer sets targeting unique regions in the spike protein of COVID-19 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 COVID-19 genomes. The sensitivity of this in-house assay is comparable to that of commercially available kits,” said Parul Gupta and Prashant Pradhan, members of the team.
“This assay can be used as a qualitative (yes or no) 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,” they added.
The test is being validated on clinical samples by the National Institute of Virology in Pune, which is one of the translational science cells part of Indian Council of Medical Research – the apex body in India for the formulation, coordination and promotion of biomedical research.