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Indian Researchers Develop AI-Powered COVID-19 Kit

Researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology in Hyderabad (IIT-Hyderabad) have developed an artificial intelligence (AI)-powered COVID-19 testing kit, COVIHOME, that can produce results in 30 minutes for both symptomatic and asymptomatic patients.

COVIHOME is the country’s first rapid electronic COVID-19 RNA test kit. It was developed by a team from the Department of Electrical Engineering at IIT-Hyderabad. The technology is validated by the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (ICMR-CCMB), Hyderabad, and is ready for technology transfer, a news report has informed.

The major benefit of this testing kit is that it does not require RT-PCR (Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction), an expert human resource, and a BSL 2 lab facility for the extraction of RNA. It has the potential for one to take the test at home without expert supervision, a release from IIT Hyderabad explained. Following the ICMR protocols, the CSIR-CCMB performed the validation of the rapid RNA electronic diagnostic device for the detection of the SARS-Cov-2 virus in the swab samples independently. The in-house samples and hospital samples were confirmed for their positivity or negativity by the RT-PCR method. The validation report confirmed the kit’s efficiency of 94.2%, sensitivity 91.3%, and specificity 98.2%.

Highlighting the benefits of this testing kit, the lead researcher, Professor Singh, said a major objective of the research team was to break the transmission chain through affordable testing. “We have already filed a patent for the device and are now looking for industry partners for ToT of technology for mass production,” he said. The Director of IIT-Hyderabad noted that the institute has come up with many unique and novel socio-technological initiatives and delivered remarkable results during this pandemic. Currently, each test costs around IN 400 (US$). However, the cost can be reduced further to IN 300 (US$) per test through mass production of the testing kit. The initial clinical trials and testing of the device were performed at ESIC Medical College and Hospital in Hyderabad.

India has been developing and deploying technology to help fight the virus. It rolled out a vaccine platform, CoWIN, to manage COVID-19 vaccinations. More than 50 countries from Latin America, Africa, and Asia have shown interest in the vaccination system. India recently announced it would share the technology with them free of cost.

Further, the Centre of Artificial Intelligence and Robotics, under the Defence Research and Development Organisation, developed an AI-based intelligent COVID detection application software ATMAN AI. The intelligent web-based software can classify images under ‘normal’, ‘COVID-19’, and ‘pneumonia’, using chest X-rays. ATMAN AI is powered by a Deep Convolutional Neural Network. The software pre-processes the images before passing them to the neural net to take care of the variant illuminations levels of the X-Ray images. ATMAN AI can be accessed using mobiles, tablets, laptops, or computers. DRDO claimed ATMAN AI had shown an accuracy of 96.73% on digital chest X-rays of RT-PCR-positive patients. So far, ATMAN AI has been tested and validated by doctors from the HCG Centre for Academics and Research and Ankh Life Care, in Bengaluru.

The Indian Institute of Technology in Kharagpur (IIT-Kharagpur) launched COVIRAP, a diagnostic tech to detect infectious diseases, including COVID-19. COVIRAP consists of a pre-programmable control unit, a special detection unit on genomic analysis, and a customised smartphone app to display the test findings.

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