India is all set to unveil a path-breaking test for diabetes that will save both money and blood.
The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) is almost ready with a new digital finger-pricking blood sugar machine that will not require repeated use of testing strips. Significantly, it will cost less than Rs 2 per blood sample and require 1,000 times lesser blood than what glucose meters use now. Even better, it will take only 10 seconds to know your blood glucose count.
Being developed by professor of biological sciences at BITS-Pilani, Dr Suman Kapur, the test will undergo final evaluation by July 15 and is expected to be ready for mass production by December.
This low-cost rapid test will be a boon for India which plans to test five crore people for diabetes by the end of this year. India plans to screen all adult males above 30 years of age and pregnant women of all age groups for diabetes and hypertension in 100 districts across 21 states.
Now, India is home to over 61 million diabetics — an increase from 50.8 million last year. By 2030, India's diabetes burden is expected to cross the 100 million mark.
The country is also the largest contributor to regional mortality with 983,000 deaths attributable to the disease last year.
Speaking to TOI from the US, Dr Kapur said, "Our device is as handy as a glucometre but with a different chemistry. The major aim was to make a pocket-size glucose testing device that is affordable and can be used for mass screening. Diabetics are required to test their blood often, each time costing around Rs 25. Our test will bring the cost down to below Rs 2. Also we will require just 1 or 2 picolitre of blood which is 1,000 times lower that what is required now."
So how will the new device work?
Once we prick the finger with a needle, the red blood cells from the blood that flows in will be trapped and the plasma will be allowed to pass through. "The machine will react right there and produce a colour corresponding to glucose levels. We are using nano particles to intensify the colour using a colour to frequency censor. Then, the reading will show up on the device. The major advancement will be on the sensitivity," added Dr Kapur, who is also dean of research at BITS-Pilani.
He said the test has been successfully tried with human samples. "We are working on the reading device which will be the size of a cellphone. Instead of strips that glucometres use now, our machine will use a capillary (small hollow pie) which will cost Rs 2 every time a diabetic tests h/his blood," he added.
Dr Chandra Sekhar from the ICMR said, "We will validate the technology by July 15. This will be a major advancement in diabetes testing." ICMR has put in Rs 25 lakh in grants over two years to develop the test.
A health ministry official said, "The best way to detect abnormal BP and high blood sugar levels is to conduct mass screening. This will give us a clear picture of the prevalence of diabetes in the population." Sources said when ICMR negotiated with companies for a million diabetes strips, and the lowest quote it received was Rs 13 per strip. "If this comes down to less than Rs 2, it will be a massive breakthrough," the official added.
International Diabetes Federation said India's prevalence of diabetes among 20-79 year olds is 9.2%. IDF's latest diabetes atlas said, "India will face one of the toughest struggles against diabetes in the region. India also accounts for most of the 112,000 children in the region with Type-1 diabetes."
Dhruba Lall Singh, chair of IDF's South-East Asia region, said, "India is obviously a large concern." IDF said the total number of people with diabetes globally in 2011 reached a staggering 366 million with 4.6 million deaths. Healthcare spending on diabetes has reached $465 billion. New figures indicate that the number of people living with diabetes is expected to rise to 552 million by 2030, if no urgent action is taken. This equates to approximately three new cases every 10 seconds or almost 10 million per year.