As the country continues to deal with the daily spikes in COVID-19 cases, the Ministry of Science and Technology on Thursday said that a new low-cost novel coronavirus test has been developed. A team of researchers at the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) have developed a new low-cost and low-tech required test for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), it said. This test is known as Reverse Transcription nested Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-nPCR).
The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has recommended only reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-qPCR) test for novel coronavirus testing.
"This test does not require real-time quantitative RT-qPCR. The RT-nPCR developed by the CCMB research team has shown comparable performance to the standard RT-qPCR test. The nested PCR (RT-nPCR) approach does not depend on RT-qPCR but uses standard RT-PCR as part of an endpoint assay," the ministry said.
The Ministry stated that in the course of comparing the results of both tests, researchers found that the standard RT-qPCR test can have low detection efficiency (less than 50%) in a real testing scenario, which may be due to low viral representation in many samples. This finding brought home the importance of monitoring detection efficiency directly in test environments.
"We developed and tested an RT-nPCR protocol comprising a multiplex primary RT-PCR for amplification of four SARS-CoV-2 amplicons and a control human amplicon followed by a secondary nested PCR for individual amplicons. We also examined the use of RT-nPCR in pooled testing and in direct amplification without RNA isolation," said Dr Rakesh Mishra, Director, CCMB, while speaking with India Science Wire.
"This new test is awaiting approval from ICMR. We might ask ICMR to use this test in those places where there are no RT-qPCR machines," he added.
As countries across the globe continue to find a coronavirus vaccine, many Indian companies have joined the endeavour to develop a possible cure. Indian biotech firm Panacea has said it would partner with US-based Refana Inc to make a potential corona vaccine. The firms aim to make more than 500 million doses of the vaccine candidate. Around 40 million doses are expected to be ready by early next year, Panacea told the stock exchanges.
Meanwhile Johnson and Johnson has said that it would start human trials in July. Eli Lilly and Co has also said that it might have a coronavirus drug ready for use as early as September. Additionally China is offering employees of state-run companies the option to get inoculated with two vaccines in development.
By Chitranjan Kumar