Research Highlights

Low-cost, portable COVID-19 testing device

doi:10.1038/nindia.2020.116 Published online 25 July 2020

Researchers from the Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur have designed a low-cost, portable device that can detect traces of the novel coronovirus SARS-CoV-2 in nasal and oral swab samples.

The device, the researchers say, can display the test results within an hour on a smartphone app. The device can also be used for detecting other disease-causing viruses.  

The novel coronovirus is a RNA virus. Such viruses are capable of mutating rapidly into different strains in a short span of time. To work around this, the scientists, led by Suman Chakraborty and Arindam Mondal, fabricated the device to target and detect a specific region of viral RNA sequence which rarely mutates. The device which uses a disposable paper strip, shows sensitivity comparable to RT-PCR machines, they say.

The researchers synthetically produced this highly conserved part of the RNA sequence and prepared samples using it. They tested the device on 500 samples.

The device, estimated to cost around Rs 2000, can be used for a large number of tests, by replacing the paper strip after each test, which is expected to cost about Rs. 400.   

Since the device can detect a specific region of RNA sequence that is found in various RNA viruses, it could potentially be used for other viral pandemics, the researchers say.