A far quicker, cheaper swine flu test, courtesy defence scientists

February 24th, 2010 - 2:31 pm ICT by IANS  

By Prashant K. Nanda
New Delhi, Feb 24 (IANS) India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has developed a swine flu testing kit that can diagnose the pandemic in just two hours and reduce the cost of a single test fivefold - to less than Rs.1,000.

“This test kit can diagnose positive samples within two hours as against nearly a day as is the practice currently,” Bhuvnesh Kumar, additional director of life sciences at DRDO, told IANS.

Kumar said DRDO had already completed the required tests on over 500 subjects and given the kit to the Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR) for its final approval.

“We have got all positive results while testing over 500 samples over the last few months,” he added.

“We are using a new method called lamp technology in this test. It’s an indigenous kit and different from the current kits approved by the World Health Organisation,” said P.V.L Rao, director of virology at the Defence Research and Development Establishment (DRDE), a lab of DRDO in Gwalior.

Rao said DRDO had done the tests on 500 samples at the National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD), NIMHANS, Bangalore, Sawai Man Singh (SMS) hospital in Jaipur and PGI, Chandigarh. The data has already been presented to ICMR as it is the nodal authority on such issues.

“The ICMR director general (V.M. Katoch) has been very cooperative and has shown a lot of interest in this kit. He asked us to test it on another 500 samples and we hope to complete it in a month,” Rao told IANS from Gwalior.

The virologist also hoped that “if everything goes well” the indigenous kit can be in the market within three months. “This test kit can conduct the swine flu test in less than Rs.1,000.”

Currently, the government claims it spends nearly Rs.10,000 for every swine flu test but some approved private labs do it for Rs.4,500 to Rs.5,000.

Alka Chatterjee, another joint director at DRDO, said the kit does not really need high expertise labs to conduct the test. “Results can be seen in field conditions. This kit will give specific information. It is very user-friendly.”

India has lost over 1,325 lives due to H1N1 since the pandemic entered the country in May 2009. Nearly 30,000 people have been infected by the virus across India with Delhi reporting the maximum number of cases among states. While Maharashtra has reported over 350 casualties, Gujarat stands at number two with over 270 deaths. Rajasthan, Karnataka and Delhi are three other high casualty states.

(Prashant K. Nanda can be contacted at prashant.n@ians.in)

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