India to roll out quick and cheap COVID-19 paper test

NEW DELHI (CNA) – A fast and cheap paper-based COVID-19 test will soon be available across India, with scientists hopeful that it will help turn the tide on the pandemic in one of the world’s worst-hit nations.

India has recorded more than 7.5 million infections, second only to the United States, and the outbreak has spread from densely packed megacities like Mumbai to rural communities with limited medical services.

The locally developed Feluda, named for a detective in a famous Indian novel series, resembles a home pregnancy paper-strip test and delivers results within an hour. Researchers are optimistic that its low cost and ease of use can help stem the pathogen’s spread in poor and remote areas.

“This test doesn’t require any sophisticated equipment or highly trained manpower,” said co-creator Souvik Maiti, a scientist at New Delhi’s CSIR-Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology (IGIB).

“There are lots of remote parts of India where you do not have any sophisticated laboratories. It will be much easier to deploy and have much more penetration.” India currently diagnoses COVID-19 with either RT-PCR tests, which are highly accurate but require advanced lab machinery, or antigen tests, which can give results in just a few minutes at a limited cost but with significantly lower accuracy.