Made in India: The new Feluda test can detect COVID faster than RT-PCR | Condé Nast Traveller India

India coronavirus test - Feluda test

Photo: Adam Niescioruk via Unsplash

Named for Satyajit Ray’s fictional detective Feluda, India’s new test to detect COVID-19 is said to have a quicker turnaround time than the RT-PCR test, which is the gold standard. The Feluda test matches the accuracy levels of the RT-PCR test in detecting SARS-CoV-2, while yielding faster results with less costly equipment and greater ease, according to the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR). According to Deccan Herald, the new test has a turnaround time of around an hour as opposed to the RT-PCR test that requires over a day. Tata Group will soon launch the diagnostic test kit.

RT-PCR vs Feluda Test

Approved for commercial launch by the Drug Controller General of India, as per guidelines by the Indian Council of Medical Research, the paper-based strip-test is said to meet high-quality benchmarks with 96% sensitivity (ability to detect positive results) and 98% specificity (ability to detect negative results, and avoid false-positives) for the novel coronavirus. 

The test was developed by a research team led by Debojyoti Chakraborty and Souvik Maiti of CSIR-IGIB (Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology) and Tata Group. 

Feluda is more than a literary reference, it’s an acronym for FNCAS9 Editor Linked Uniform Detection Assay. The paper-strip test uses an indigenously developed CRISPR (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats) technology to detect the genomic sequence of the SARS-CoV2 virus. 

The Tata CRISPR test is the first diagnostic test to deploy a specially adapted Cas9 protein to successfully detect the virus causing COVID-19. The research harnessed CSIR’s learnings from working on the sickle-cell mission for genome diagnostics and therapeutics. The test took less than a 100 days to develop, marking a milestone for the Indian scientific community. In addition, CRISPR can be configured to detect other pathogens in the future.

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