Truenat Beta Test for COVID-19 detection in India
The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) had recommended the use of the Truenat beta CoV test on Truelab workstation as a screening test for COVID-19 on 4th April 2020. It has also approved the use of US-FDA approved real-time Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) systems such as GeneXpert and Roche Cobas- 6800/800 in emergency situations.
However, ICMR did mention that Truenat beta CoV test should only be performed with all biosafety precautions in BSL-2 or BSL-3 setups at designated laboratories. Performing this test for SARS-CoV2 in mobile test units without proper biosafety level-2 checks is not recommended.
Molbio Diagnostics, a diagnostics company, has partnered with Tata Trusts to roll out Covid-testing kits across the country. Molbio, founded in 2000, largely focuses on testing for diseases including tuberculosis and malaria. It can now diagnose a positive result for the coronavirus strain within an hour for Rs. 1,350, said Chandrashekhar Nair, Chief Technical Officer of the firm.
The test — called the Truenat Beta CoV test — effectively enables same-day testing, reporting, and patient isolation initiation (if required). Officials say this is one of the few ICMR-approved tests to have been validated in a short period of time. Its battery-operated kits are the size of a telephone and can be taken out into the field to test as many as 15 individuals a day. They range between Rs. 6.5 lakh and Rs. 12 lakh and have received both government and ICMR approval.
The testing kits uses Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) technology, which uses a swab from the throat to diagnose diseases — a more accurate method when it comes to diagnosis.
Nair said, “Rapid antibody tests can be used for speed but can’t detect all cases. People could be carriers despite not showing any symptom, and therefore be contagious. This means testing has to become universal in India for the disease to be truly contained.”
He further added, “The advantage is that it can be run several times continuously. The big technology difference here is the underlying principle of both the traditional PCR machine and TrueNAT. In a regular PCR machine, one can run 24 or 40 or 96 samples at a time, but the RNA has to be extracted separately. In TrueNAT, they have combined everything.”