The researchers at IIT Kharagpur have developed a low-cost testing device for Covid-19. The new portable device was approved by the Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR) after testing with patient samples showed an accuracy level slightly lower than the gold standard RT-PCR method at a fraction of the cost.
“The machine costs less than Rs 5000 to make and the test-kits would cost about Rs 500” as informed by the IIT Kharagpur researchers who have developed it.
— Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw (@kiranshaw) October 22, 2020
COVIRAP will be very useful in the rural areas as it requires only minimal training but the viral RNA still needs a laboratory to be extracted. It is very similar in function to a “paper-strip” based pregnancy kits where two lines assert a positive. In COVIRAP the emergence of two-colored lines will confirm the presence of the virus.
This is a major breakthrough as India is encouraging indigenous development of Covid 19 related infrastructure like masks, PPE-kits, and sanitizers. Excessive testing is the only way to contain the virus until the development of the vaccine. RT-PCR labs are expensive to establish in contrary to this low-cost testing device.
Since the outbreak of the pandemic in India, researchers are trying to build such low-cost testing mechanisms but none could obtain the approval of ICMR for commercial usage. This is a fruitful development in a positive direction.