Nepal validates new coronavirus test that is ‘cheaper, quicker than PCR’

Kathmandu, January 16

Nepal has validated a new coronavirus test kit that is reportedly cheaper and quicker than the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test being practised in the country for the past year.

The National Public Health Laboratory under the Ministry of Health validated the Sherlock CRISPR kit developed as per the technology of the CRISPR/Cas9 genetic scissors that won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2020. However, the laboratory’s chief Dr Runa Jha clarifies the kit has not been approved yet for actual use, and discussions are underway for the same.

“We are happy with the result of the validation,” Dr Jha says, “But, it is up to the Ministry of Health to decide whether to use it.”

The ministry’s spokesperson Jageshwor Gautam says the ministry will make a decision in this regard soon.

The NPHL says it had tested 360 samples using the new kit, among which, 98.33 per cent samples showed similar results to that of a PCR test.

The United States’ Food and Drug Administration has also already approved this technology for emergency use. Two Nepali scholars working in different US institutions, Digbijay Raja Mahat and Bishal Bhandari, led the technology’s adoption in Nepal.

Mahat says 8,000 CRISPR kits have been brought to Nepal in the first phase.

He says this is an appropriate tool for mass testing as it is cheaper and quicker than the PCR kit. This technology gives results within 70 minutes of sample collection. Accordingly, over 10,000 people can be tested in a single day.

Mahat hopes this technology can help Nepal combat the pandemic more effectively.

Further, it does not need any VTM kit or RNA extraction kit for the test, making it cheaper than the PCR technology. Further, it can be used with a tube where a lab and a test machine are not available.

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