COVID-19 Pandemic: What is ‘Feluda’ Test?

Feluda, the first CRISPR COVID-19 test has been approved.

The Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) has given its approval for the launch of India’s first Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic (CRISPR) COVID-19 test to the Tata Group for commercial launch.

The ‘Feluda’ test is powered by Council of Scientific and Industrial Research’s Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology (CSIR-IGIB).

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What is ‘Feluda’ test for COVID-19?

It is the acronym for FNCAS9 Editor Linked Uniform Detection Assay. Basically, it is an accurate and low-cost paper-based test strip that will be used to detect COVID-19 in less than 30 minutes. As discussed above it is developed by the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and Tata group.

The test is developed by a research team which is led by Debojyoti Chakraborty and Souvik Maiti of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and Tata Group. The test has been named ‘Feluda’, a fictional private detective from West Bengal created by renowned writer and filmmaker Satyajit Ray.

How does the test work?

The indigenously developed ‘Feluda’ test for COVID-19 is developed by CRISPR gene-editing technology to identify and target the genetic material of SARS-CoV2. It is the virus that causes COVID-19.

As per the CSIR, the test matches the accuracy levels of RT-PCR which is considered the gold standard in the diagnosis of COVID-19.

It is also said that the Feluda test is similar to a pregnancy test strip that will just change colour upon detection of the virus and can be used in the simple pathological lab.

Dr Debojyoti Chakraborty told about the working of the test that is the “Cas9 protein is barcoded to interact with the SARS-CoV2 sequence in the patient’s genetic material. The Cas9-SARS-CoV2 complex is then put on the paper strip, where using two lines (one control, one test) makes it possible to determine if the test sample was infected with Covid-19.”

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What is the significance of the ‘Feluda’ test?

The test met high-quality benchmarks, with 96 per cent sensitivity and 98 per cent specificity for detecting novel coronavirus,” according to CSIR statement.

It has a quicker turn around time and requires less expensive equipment.

Also, the ‘Feluda’ is the world’s first diagnostic test to deploy a specially adapted Cas9 protein to successfully detect the virus. Other CRISPR tests use CAS12 and CAS13 proteins to detect SARS-CoV2.

About CRISPR technology

CRISPR stands for Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats. It is a gene-editing technology and helps in finding its use in correcting the defects in genes and treating and preventing the spread of diseases.

Further, the technology can detect specific consequences of DNA within a gene and uses the functioning of an enzyme as molecular scissors to snip it.

It also allows researchers to easily alter the DNA sequences and modify the function of the gene.

The technology can also be configured for detection of multiple other pathogens in the future.

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Cost of the Feluda Test and its comparison with other tests

The ‘Feluda’ test cost just about Rs 500 and on the other hand, an RT-PCR test now costs between Rs 1600 to Rs 2000.

Antibody test costs between Rs 500 and Rs 600 and this also give results in 20-30 minutes.

Rapid antigen test kit costs around Rs 450 and interprets a positive or negative test in 30 minutes, etc.

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