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UV light booth, nasal gel & other innovations India’s working on to battle Covid-19

The science ministry's science & tech department has been pushing institutes to work on innovations that improve India's response to Covid-19.

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New Delhi: India is likely to soon roll out two new innovations developed by institutes under the science and technology ministry to boost the country’s capabilities in tackling the Covid-19 pandemic.

A UV light booth that can examine coronavirus patients without any human contact, and a fumigation chamber that disinfects people within five minutes are currently in the manufacturing phase and will likely be available for use by end of April or first week of May, said a Kerala institute that worked on the projects.

The innovations are part of the ministry’s Department of Science and Technology (DST) initiative to have institutes across the country work on solutions that improve India’s response to Covid-19.

There are more products in the pipeline, each in different stages of technology transfer. They include a 3D face shield with reusable properties, a nasal gel, and an antimicrobial surface coating that can kill the virus.

ThePrint lists six of them that are under development.

Also read: India has allocated over Rs 200 cr for new Covid-19 projects: Science secretary

UV light booth

Amid a shortage of personal protective equipment and masks, doctors across the country are contracting the infection while treating coronavirus patients.

To deal with this, Sree Chitra Tirunal Institute for Medical Sciences & Technology (SCTIMST), an autonomous institute under DST in Thiruvananthapuram, has developed a UV light booth. Modelled on a telephone booth, this technology can be used to examine patients without doctors coming in direct contact with patients.

The glass chamber booth has a small opening on one side for the doctor to use a stethoscope. The doctor can also see the patient through the glass. Once the patient vacates the chamber after examination, UV lights will be turned on for three minutes to disinfect it.

The booth will be placed in hospitals.

“Providing the highest level of safeguards while interacting with carriers of highly contagious virus is priority. This booth will protect them (doctors/healthcare personnel) in treating patients. It will be placed in hospitals treating coronavirus patients,” said Ashutosh Sharma, secretary, DST.

The booth will cost around Rs 25,000 per unit. HMT Machine Tools Ltd, a public service undertaking, is currently manufacturing it.

Also read: Is coronavirus mutating in India? If yes, how? CSIR starts genetic sequencing to find out

Fumigation chambers

The science and technology ministry has approved the development of fumigation chambers, which will use hydrogen peroxide gas to disinfect people.

The chamber will be five-feet wide and seven-feet tall, and have sensors to detect the entry of a person. The disinfection will last a quick five seconds. The gas will be used under World Health Organization’s permissible limits.

“Tubes will emit puffs of hydrogen peroxide. It will not have a harmful effect on the person, it will disinfect them from other viruses also within five seconds,” SCTIMST director Asha Kishore said.

Developed by SCTIMST, the product will be commercially manufactured by HLL Infratech Service Ltd., a government undertaking. It will be used at commercial places like malls, metro entry points and educational institutes.

“This will be very useful in disinfecting people at such points where there is heavy load, like malls, hospitals, metro gates. This will secure them from virus, add extra protection,” said Sharma.

3D face shield

The Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR)’s Central Electrochemical Research Institute, located in Tamil Nadu’s Karaikudi, is developing the shield to protect the face from coronavirus.

The mask will be reusable, and also have disinfectants inside it. Bengaluru-based Lycan 3D is developing this, said DST’s Sharma.

Also read: Trial assessing anti-clotting drug to algorithm guiding PPE use — latest on Covid-19 research

Anti-virus coating

Bengaluru’s Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research (JNCASR), an autonomous institute under the science and technology ministry, is developing an anti-microbial coating which can be used on surfaces, gloves, masks and clothes.

This coating can be used on plastic, PVC products and textiles. It has been developed by professor Jayanta Haldar’s team at JNCASR.

“This coating has been 100 per cent successful in influenza virus, killing them within 30 minutes of contact. It disrupts the membranes of pathogens. It will get effective in destroying Covid-19,” said Haldar.

Nasal gel

IIT Bombay is working on a gel that can be applied around the nasal passage, a common entry point for the coronavirus.

The nasal gel will have biological molecules to deactivate the trapped virus in a manner similar to that of detergents. The research team is led by professors Kiran Kondabagil and Ritni Banerjee.

“This nasal gel will provide a strong extra layer of defence in protecting our front line fight against coronavirus. Our department is funding IIT Bombay for this project,” said Sharma.

IIT Kanpur is also developing a different kind of nasal gel with DST funding, he added.

Speedy diagnostic kits

Startup FastSense Diagnostics has developed two test kits for Covid-19 with DST funding. The company is in the process of rolling out both, said Sharma.

The first product is a modified polymerase chain reaction (PCR)-based detection kit for confirmatory analysis. The test is designed to give results in lesser time than existing methods. This will mean approximately 50 samples can be tested in an hour.

The second is a portable chip-based module with sensing technology that will provide on the spot results in less than 15 minutes. The sample size for confirmatory tests can also be increased to 100 samples per hour in the future.

The company has filed a patent for these tests.

Also read: A JNU lab is working on a revamped BCG vaccine with Covid-19 protein to fight pandemic


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