In a major breakthrough in detecting the deadly swine flu virus that killed around 2,000 people in India in an outbreak this year, a key military research centre has developed a kit that can detect the virus in a matter of hours.
While current tests to detect the swine flu virus takes two to three days, the new kit delivers results in two to three hours, knowledgeable officials in the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) told IANS.
Developed by the Gwalior-based Defence Research and Development Establishment (DRDE), the kit will also be cost-effective and is expected to be priced at around Rs.2,000 ($30), while the present tests can cost anything between Rs.4,500 and Rs.10,000 in the peak season.
"While conventional identification methods require time-consuming culturing and detection of anti-bodies, this kit uses a gene amplification method and is based on the principle of auto-cyclic strand displacement mechanism," a DRDO official aware of the developments told IANS on condition of anonymity as he is not authorised to speak to the media.
The DRDO, which leads defence research in the country, focussed on developing the kit in view of possible enhanced use of chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear warfare (CBRN) in future, the official said.
"In case of a biological weapon being used, the first step to combat this is detection. Handy kits like these are being developed keeping that in mind," the official said.
Asked if the kit can be used on a large scale, the official said some firms have already been given the technology to develop the kits.
"Our role is to develop the technology. We have already handed it over to some interested manufacturers. It will now be up to the government to decide if it wants to use it at a larger level," the official added.
Swine flu has claimed well over two thousand lives in India till March this year with the total number of cases crossing the 33,000 mark, according to the health ministry. Rajasthan and Gujarat were the worst affected states.