CSIR scientists rise to the challenge, build new protective gear and tests to fight COVID-19
Not only do our past experiences inform our actions now, but advances made in technology also help us mount a stronger attack against the health threat.
Every time there is an international health emergency, we’re better prepared for it than we were the last time: not only do our past experiences inform our actions now, but advances made in technology also help us mount a stronger attack against the health threat.
With COVID-19, so many experts from different fields and countries across the globe have come together to bring us innovative solutions. And it's not just innovative solutions; many of these experts have cracked the perfect balance between inventiveness and scalability. A few, by the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), right in our very own backyard, are well-worth mentioning:
1. The Feluda paper-strip test
A team at the CSIR Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology, Delhi, has developed an alternative method of testing for COVID-19. As of now, the world is largely dependent on RT-PCR tests, which are limited in number.
The team, led by Dr Souvik Maiti and Dr Debojyoti Chakraborty, propose using their paper strip test that could give a result within an hour. The test, named Feluda (after the detective in Satyajit Ray's novels), is much more affordable than RT-PCR and is expected to receive approval from the Indian Medical Council of Research (ICMR) soon. The test uses CRISPR-Cas-9, the genome-editing technology, and wouldn’t require the use of any probes.
2. Polypropylene PPE gown
If you’ve been following the news, you know that there is a massive requirement for personal protective equipment (PPE) for healthcare workers and the supply isn’t enough in most areas. One of the things included in PPE kits is a gown/coverall. CSIR National Aerospace Laboratories, Bengaluru, has developed a protective coverall suit made of polypropylene that has gone through testing and has been approved for use. The suit is cost-effective and doesn’t require as many imported materials. The makers are hoping to ramp up production to 30,000 units per day over the next month.
3. Modified face masks
Face masks or covers have been made compulsory in many countries. There has been much debate about their effectiveness against COVID-19, though. Here is where a team of scientists from CSIR Central Salt and Marine Chemistry Research Institute, Gujarat, steps in.
They’ve managed to develop a face mask that not only protects you from the novel coronavirus but also promises to destroy it. The outer layer of the mask is made from a modified polysulfone material which is reportedly capable of destroying any virus bigger than 60 nanometers in diameter. According to the researchers, since the diameter of the coronavirus falls between 80-120 nanometers, it would be suitable during this pandemic. The cost would be around Rs 50, making it much more affordable than N95s and, theoretically, more effective too.
4. Biodegradable face shields
CSIR Central Salt and Marine Chemistry Research Institute, Gujarat, has also developed face shields, which are also a part of the PPE kits for medical professionals. A face shield helps protect healthcare workers from infected particles while they're collecting samples for testing, or looking after a patient. This customizable face shield protects any gaps between the neck and chin and is also completely biodegradable, meaning it won’t increase the carbon footprint.
5. Infrared thermometers to check for fever, from a safe distance
Another gap in the market is being filled by a team at CSIR National Metallurgical Laboratory, Jharkhand. One of the symptoms of COVID-19 is fever, which is why checkpoints for taking temperature have been set up at offices and apartment complexes, etc. This will especially be important when the lockdown restrictions are lifted on May 17th. But there are only so many infrared thermometers in the market - which is why the team decided to build their own. They’re currently looking for more materials, so they can build them for other organisations.
For more information, read our article on Face covers to battle COVID-19.
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