COVID KAVACH ELISA: First Indian antibody detection kit for coronavirus
In a major step forward, the Indian Council of Medical Research and National Institute of Virology have jointly announced the development of COVID KAVACH ELISA, the first indigenous antibody detection kit for COVID-19. The testing technology, which has been validated and approved by the government, will now be mass-produced and deployed to help authorities better map the spread of the infection. Here's more.
Dr. Harsh Vardhan shared the specifics of the new kit
In a series of tweets, Dr. Harsh Vardhan, India's Minister of Health and Family Welfare, shared the news of the indigenous kit development. He said the technology was developed by ICMR and NIV in a month's time and "validated at 2 sites in Mumbai" with "high sensitivity & accuracy." Overall, Dr. Vardhan emphasized, the method is cost-effective, sensitive, and rapid.
90 samples can be processed in 2.5 hours
As for performance, Dr. Vardhan said, the ELISA kit can test "90 samples together in a single run of 2.5 hours, so that healthcare professionals can proceed quickly with necessary next steps on their patients' triage paths." This means that the kit could be used to test a large number of samples in any clinical setting, even at public hospitals in small districts.
Mass production to be handled by Zydus Cadila
Now, to begin the deployment of these kits across India, ICMR has roped in Cadila Healthcare Ltd. (Zydus Cadila). NIV has transferred the novel testing technology to Zydus to get the kits mass-produced and supplied as soon as possible. "The Drug Controller General has granted commercial production & marketing permission to Zydus," Dr. Vardhan said, without quoting a specific timeline for the kits' availability.
But, how these kits would be useful?
Antibodies are the proteins that the human immune system produces to fight off dangerous viruses like the novel coronavirus. Therefore, by using this test and detecting the presence of antibodies in blood plasma, the government could better map and surveil the proportion of the population that contracted the virus and recovered from it later while probably infecting others in the process.
Bigger questions will also be answered
With antibody tests, the government could also identify front-line health workers who are more immune to COVID-19 and can work safely around critical cases. It could also answer bigger questions like how many people died out of the infected ones as well as how long the immune response lasts in recovered patients, which might help with the vaccine development process.
Antibody testing has been disrupted lately
India's own antibody testing kit comes weeks after the country had to halt the use of rapid antibody testing kits imported from Chinese companies Guangzhou Wondfo Biotech and Zhuhai Livzon Diagnostics, due to poor performance and accuracy.