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LOW-COST ‘FELUDA’ TEST

Why in news?

  • An accurate and low-cost strip test called “Feluda” that can detect the coronavirus disease within one hour is expected to be available for the first phase of testing by July 2020.
  • Called Feluda, the test is named after a fictional detective created by the late Satyajit Ray – and it is also an acronym for FNCAS9 Editor-Linked Uniform Detection Assay.

How does Feluda Work?

  • The test uses CRISPR gene-editing technology to identify and target the genetic material of Sars-CoV2, the virus that causes Covid-19.
  • The CRISPR-based Feluda testing works by combining CRISPR biology and paper strip chemistry. Briefly, Cas9 protein, a component of the CRISPR system, is barcoded to interact specifically with the Sars-CoV2 sequence in the patient’s genetic material.
  • The complex of Cas9 with Sars-CoV2 is then applied to a paper strip, where using two lines (one control, one test) make it possible to determine if the test sample was infected with Covid-19.
  • The entire diagnostic process takes about one hour, starting from RNA to giving a visual readout on the strip.
  • Unlike other CRISPR tests that use CAS12 and CAS13 proteins to detect Sars-CoV2, the CSIR-IGIB kit technology uses CAS9 protein (CRISPR-associated protein 9) to identify and bind to the target sequence.

Significance of Feluda

  • Most labs are working with PCR (polymerase chain reaction)-based technology, which is costly and needs a lab set-up.
  • Feluda paper strip does not require (biosafety) Level-2 or Level-3 lab for testing and can be done in any path lab.
  • Feluda is not limited to Covid-19.
  • Each Feluda test costs Rs 500 in the lab, bringing down the current cost of Rs. 4,500 for RT-PCR.

What is CRISPR?

CRISPR, which is short for Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats, is a gene-editing technology that can be used to detect a specific snippet of DNA from a sequence. It can also be used turn genes on or off without altering their sequence.

CAS 9 Crispr Technology of Gene Editing
UPSC 2019 Prelims Question:  

What is Cas9 protein that is often mentioned in news?

(a) Molecular scissors used in targeted gene editing
(b) A biosensor used in the accurate detection of pathogens in patients
(c) A gene that makes plants pest-resistant
(d) Herbicidal substance synthesized in genetically modified crops  

Answer: (a)

-Source: Hindustan Times

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