Agappe Chitra Magna: Made-In-India Medical Tech That Will Make COVID-19 Tests Cheaper, Faster And More Accurate

Agappe Chitra Magna: Made-In-India Medical Tech That Will Make COVID-19 Tests Cheaper, Faster And More AccurateDr VK Saraswat, NITIAayog member and President, SCTIMST announced commercial launch of Agappe Chitra Magna, a magnetic nanoparticle-based RNA extraction kit for detection of  Covid-19 (Source: @IndiaDST/Twitter)
Snapshot
  • The kit priced at an affordable Rs 150 as compared to imported kits which cost around double. It is expected to reduce the testing cost, increase the rate of testing and reduce India’s dependence on other countries.

NITI Aayog member and President of Institute body of Sree Chitra Tirunal Institute for Medical Sciences and Technology (SCTIMST) Dr V K Saraswat announced yesterday (21 May) the commercial launch of Agappe Chitra Magna.

It is a magnetic nanoparticle-based RNA extraction kit used during the testing for the detection of novel coronavirus COVID-19.

SCTIMST developed it along with Agappe Diagnostics Ltd, an in vitro diagnostics manufacturing company based in Cochin, Kerala.

The RNA extraction kit was developed under the leadership of senior scientist, Dr Anoop Kumar Thekkuveettil, was transferred to Agappe Diagnostics in April 2020, and will now be available in the market.

The first sale of the product has been conducted by Thomas John, Managing Director of the Agappe Diagnostics to officials from Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences, Kochi.

How do we test for coronavirus?

There are two kinds of tests. A viral test directly checks for the presence of the virus and tells you if you have a current infection. On the other hand, an antibody test tells you if you had a previous infection.

Since it can take one to three weeks after the infection for the body to make antibodies, the antibody test can fail to detect a current infection.

RT-LAMP, RT-qPCR, RT-PCR and other isothermal and PCR based protocols for the detection of Covid-19 are all examples of viral testing.

The tests can be done on respiratory samples obtained by various methods, including a nasal secretions collected from the back of the nose and throat or sputum sample or saliva.

The sample is then subjected to different chemicals that amplify a piece of the virus's genome — a marker of the virus’s presence.

The isothermal nucleic acid amplification method typically detect the amplified virus sequences using fluorescent tags.

An antigen test amplifies the antigen — the part of a pathogen to which the human body gives an immune response. These tests look for certain proteins on the surface of the virus.

The PCR amplifies a small well-defined segment of DNA. Since the virus only has RNA and not DNA, the sample is subjected to processes that convert the virus’s RNA to DNA.

What is the use of Agappe Chitra Magna?

Agappe Chitra Magna is not the test itself, it is RNA-extraction technology that makes the whole process of testing faster and more accurate.

A virus’s RNA is unique. Just like a person can be identified from his DNA, the Covid-19 can be identified by its RNA. Any test to detect the presence of the virus needs sufficient concentration of its RNA.

Here is where the Agappe Chitra Magna RNA extraction kit comes.

It uses the innovative technology of conjugating the RNA with magnetic nanoparticles. Then, by applying a magnetic field, the concentration of RNA can be increased at one place. The process gives a highly purified and concentrated RNA, increasing the accuracy of the test.

It also allows for the high sensitivity of RT-LAMP test from SCTIMST.

RT-LAMP, RT-qPCR, RT-PCR and other isothermal and PCR based protocols — basically, any test that needs RNA extraction for Covid-19 test will benefit from the Agappe Chitra Magna.

Significance

The kit priced at an affordable Rs 150. It is expected to reduce the testing cost, increase the rate of testing and reduce India’s dependence on imported kits which cost around double the Agappe Chitra Magna.

“It can also be an example of rapid commercialization and implementation of a state of the art technology for the world to emulate,” said Dr Saraswat at the launch.

It is estimated that India would require about 8 lakh RNA extraction kits each month for the next six months.

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