Arya Dipa, Bandung – Padjajaran University (Unpad) and the Bandung Institute of Technology in West Java are jointly developing a new rapid COVID-19 test using antigens as an alternative to detect the virus amid a shortage of the reagents necessary to conduct polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests.
West Java governor Ridwan Kamil said the new equipment was developed with a Surface Plasmon Resonance (SPR) sensor which could detect the virus' RNA quickly and accurately on the spot.
"[The SPR testing] only requires a laptop and a little box containing the samples to detect the virus," Ridwan said in a statement after a visit to the Unpad Research Center for Molecular Biotechnology and Bioinformatics on Thursday.
PCR tests, currently considered the most precise method to detect the virus in patients, are time-consuming. They require lengthy laboratory tests.
They also require reagents to isolate the indicators for the coronavirus RNA from the human DNA in swab samples. A global shortage of the chemicals has made it difficult for the country to conduct large-scale PCR testing.
Ridwan called the innovation "Rapid Test 2.0" as the test results would appear within 15 minutes. It differed from the existing rapid test for its accuracy in detecting the particular virus that causes COVID-19: SARS-CoV-2.
The West Java administration hopes to test at least 300,000 people, or 0.6 percent of the approximately 50 million residents of the province, to map out the spread of COVID-19 in the region and to subsequently contain the spread of the disease.
"God willing, we will achieve the target with the presence of the local test kits," he said.
So far, the province has conducted 114,282 tests – 105,992 of which were rapid tests and 8,290 were PCR tests.
Muhammad Yusuf, a COVID-19 vaccine and diagnostic research coordinator at the Unpad Biotechnology, Molecular and Bioinformatics Research Center, said the test kits used antigens to scan for proteins inside viruses in the test samples.
The researchers injected the novel coronavirus' proteins into chickens and used their antibodies – the Y-shaped proteins produced by the immune system in response to antigen exposure – as a component in the testing. Unpad researchers collaborated with their ITB counterparts to test the molecules on the surface of SARS-CoV-2.
"The result is very specific and sensitive. In dense concentrations, we can detect [the virus'] presence," Yusuf said, adding that they would start testing COVID-19 samples using the new kits within a month.
They planned to produce about 5,000 test kits in the initial stage, between May and June, and would eventually produce up to 50,000 per month. "We'll partner with privately owned PT Pakar Biomedika Indonesia to produce and distribute the kits," Yusuf added. (vny)