The FELUDA test developed by Tata CRISPR (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats) and the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR)-Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology (IGIB) is likely to be rolled out in the next few weeks, as mentioned by Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan. "While I cannot put an exact date on the availability, we should expect this test within the next few weeks," he said on Sunday.
The minister also said that based on tests of over 2,000 patients during the trials at the Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology (IGIB) and on testing in private labs, the test showed 96 per cent sensitivity and 98 per cent specificity.
The FNCAS9 Editor-Limited Uniform Detection Assay or FELUDA test is a paper strip test, similar to a pregnancy test. It has been approved by the Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) for a commercial launch. FELUDA has already been validated by the Department of Atomic Energy's National Centre for Biological Sciences, Bangalore.
Developed by Dr Souvik Maiti and Dr Debojyoti Chakraborty at the CSIR-IGIB, FELUDA is a nod to Satyajit Ray's famed detective. The test is touted to provide results in 45 minutes and is priced Rs 500.
Virologist Upasana Roy, senior scientist at CSIR-IICB had earlier explained why she believes FELUDA is a better alternative to the RT-PCR test. "FELUDA is an alternative to the quantitative RT-PCR tests and is highly specific. It is capable of detecting low copy number nucleic acids (less viral RNA quantity) as well as single nucleotide variations. It can distinguish between SARS-CoV-2 and SARS-CoV sequences which differ by a single nucleotide. Unlike RT-PCR which requires expensive machines, FELUDA is simple and can be used in laboratories as well as outside with a quicker turnaround time," she had said.While RT-PCR could take a few hours, trained manpower and a dedicated and expensive machine, FELUDA provides similar sensitivity and specificity but requires only a basic widely available PCR machine and no extensively trained manpower.