The kits made by a Kerala-based government institute is likely to be the cheapest available in India.

New Delhi: In a major development that is likely to decide how quickly India is successfully able to stop the spread of Covid-19, a Kerala-based government institute has developed a SARS-CoV2 testing technology which will give 100% accurate test results in less than 10 minutes and is likely to be the cheapest test available in India.
Interestingly, the women and men behind this had been working for the last three years on developing a simplified technology for the detection of TB bacteria, when they decided to go beyond the call of duty and use the same technology and their expertise to detect Covid virus 19 after the pandemic broke. And they did so, all in a government institute.
The testing technology Chitra GeneLamp-N, developed by Sree Chitra Tirunal Institute for Medical Sciences and Technology (SCTIMST), Thiruvananthapuram, under the Ministry of Science and Technology, is based on the LAMP technology. Each test, done using this technology, is likely to cost about Rs 1,000. As of now, almost all Covid-19 testing being done by the private laboratories are priced at least three to four times than that.
The SCTIMST, formerly Sree Chitra Tirunal Medical Centre, is an autonomous medical school and an Institute of National Importance in India established in 1976 at Thiruvanthanapuram, Kerala. The history of Sree Chitra Tirunal Institute for Medical Sciences and Technology dates back to 1973, when Chithra Triunal Balaram Varma, the last Maharajaha of Travencore, gifted a multi-storied building to the Government of Kerala. This building was then converted into a medical centre and inaugurated by P.N. Haskar, the then Deputy Chairman, Planning Commission, in 1976. The health sciences studies wing which developed the LAMP technology to detect Covid-19 virus was set up under the guidance of Achutha Menon, former Chief Minister of Kerala in 2000. The institute is named after Chithra Triunal Balaram Varma, the last Maharajaha of Travencore, who gifted the building.
The director of SCTIMST, Dr Asha Kishore, told The Sunday Guardian that the LAMP technology used in detection of the virus, that has been developed by them, works more quickly than the currently used Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) model which takes at least two-and-a-half-hours to deliver test results.
“In the LAMP technology, the process of amplification of the DNA is much faster than that used in the RT-PCR. In LAMP, the amplification is about 10-20 times faster than that of the RT-PCR which is brought about by fixed temperature and certain ingredients, which is why this can deliver results in much lesser time,” Dr Kishore told The Sunday Guardian.
“As against the RT-PCR process, the LAMP technology is also much cheaper because of the kind of machines used in the RT-PCR. They are very sophisticated machines found only in sophisticated laboratory setting and an RT-PCR machine would cost about Rs 15 lakh plus the testing kits, while the LAMP technology machine is much cheaper and costs about Rs 2.5 lakh, including the testing kits, and, therefore, it can deliver accurate results in much lesser time and at least four times cheaper,” Dr Kishore added. The institute officials have already demonstrated this technology and its test results for Covid-19 to the ICMR at the National Institute of Virology, Alappuzha. The test result has been found to be 100% accurate and sensitive and matching the RT-PCR test in every respect by the ICMR.
The validation certificate for the technology is awaited from the ICMR and it is likely to come by Monday. Once that arrives, the kit will enter the markets by the end of this month. “We had been working on this technology for the last three years and we had primarily developed this technology (LAMP) for the detection of TB bacteria. We had already standardised this technology, presented it to the ICMR and got it approved. Officials of WHO had also visited us and approved this technology. It was about to be placed for usage by April or May this year. In the meantime, the pandemic broke. So I proposed to my team to see if we can use it to detect virus as well, since fundamentally we were doing the same thing of using the amplification technology. We were successful in detecting virus as well using the same technology,” Dr Kishore said.
“It took us about 2-3 weeks to detect the virus. Since Covid-19 also has to be detected by converting the RNA into DNA, we had everything ready with us and therefore it was done quickly,” Dr Kishore added. According to Dr Kishore, the technology developed by them is much cheaper and quicker because unlike the other tests, including the RT-PCR method for confirmation of Covid-19, the LAMP technology uses only one step and 10 minutes in all to give a 100% confirmed positive or negative result.
“In the various other methodologies, first the screening test is done to see if the virus is present in the swab collected. If screening is passed, then a confirmatory test is done for a final confirmation, but in the LAMP test, the technology we use can give us confirmation in one single test and it is accurate. Therefore, it saves much time and the cost as well,” Dr Kishore said.

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