Chula to develop cheap Covid-19 diagnostics

Chula to develop cheap Covid-19 diagnostics

Thai Red Cross Emerging Infectious Diseases Health Science Centre under Chulalongkorn University announced yesterday that it is developing a Covid-19 diagnostic tool using a similar coronavirus strain to that found in local horseshoe bat populations.

Their research findings could be further used to develop affordable Covid-19 tools that are capable of delivering quick results for around 50 baht each, the centre's director, Thiravat Hemachuda, told the Bangkok Post.

Dr Thiravat said the project is an extension of previous academic research on viruses and pathogens which are found in Thailand's bat caves. He said the tools will be unveiled soon, although he stopped short of announcing an exact date, or how the device would work and how many would be available initially. The project was launched after a study carried out by Thai and Singaporean scientists found a strain of bat coronavirus -- which are closely related to Sars-CoV-2 strain that causes Covid-19 -- in a Thai horseshoe bat population.

The study, which was published in the peer-reviewed scientific journal Nature Communications on Feb 10, said the strain, dubbed "RacCS203", is also genetically related to a strain of bat coronaviruses called "RmYN02" which is found in China's Yunnan province.

This strain, the study said, shares 93.6% of its genes with Sars-CoV-2. Dr Thiravat, who is listed as a co-author of the paper, said the study's findings highlight the broad distribution and variety of bat coronaviruses, which consequently affects its mutation potential.

"The viruses found in bats in Thailand and China can recombine with others and eventually evolve as new emerging viruses," he said, adding that coronaviruses have the ability to move between different mammal species.

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