Mumbai startup develops India s first universal gene test for infectious disease

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Mumbai, Feb 7

 Mumbai-based health-tech startup HaystackAnalytics has developed the first of its kind universal infectious diseases (ID) gene test to identify existing and emerging infections, the company said on Monday.

The company is supported by the Department of Science and Technology, as well as several private healthcare players.

To identify infections, the company deploys Next-Generation Sequencing (NGS) technology and Artificial Intelligence (AI), and also provides information on drug resistance to support and identify correct treatment options for patients.

The new Universal Infectious Diseases test will be rolled out with their current partners in a phased manner over the next three months, the company said in a statement.

It will initially be targeted at identifying and treating sepsis in Intensive Care Unit (ICU) patients, but gradually be made available to anyone suffering from a fever of unknown origin, by eradicating the need to conduct multiple tests.

The test comes at an opportune time, as Covid-19 pandemic highlights the need for better diagnostic technologies, appropriate antibiotic use, and the renewed importance of infection prevention strategies.

"The test enables rapid (within hours) and comprehensive (covering nearly all known bacterial and fungal pathogens) screening in a near to point of care deployment. Leveraging the power of next generation sequencing and AI, the team of scientists and engineers at Haystack has been able to eliminate the need for a redundant and expensive battery of tests, with a single test," Dr. Anirvan Chatterjee, Co Founder and CEO of HaystackAnalytics, said.

"Our single point focus is to prevent each and every death caused due to treatable infections. Genomics has the potential to reduce trial and error in disease management and bring equality of access to high quality healthcare," he added.

In the past, HaystackAnalytics had partnered with various diagnostic centers and over 20 hospitals including AIIMS, to introduce their sequencing-based clinical products for Tuberculosis and Covid in the past.

It is while working on two of the most debilitating infectious diseases — Tuberculosis and Covid — the company said it recognised the true burden of inaccurate diagnosis of infections in India and the world.

While the novel coronavirus infected and killed millions of people across the globe, there are various other infectious diseases that continue to plague India.

In particular, India accounts for the largest number of sepsis cases (11.3 million) and sepsis-related deaths (2.9 million) in the world, as per a global study published in the Lancet in 2020.

Despite having a wide range of antibiotics and antifungal medicines, sepsis is a life-threatening organ failure. It occurs when the body ends up injuring its own tissues and organs, in response to an infection, leading to shock, disability, multi-organ failure, and even death if left untreated in the early stages.

"A large proportion of these deaths can be avoided by early and accurate identification of the pathogen causing the infection. Haystack's UID test has been developed to solve this exact problem," Chatterjee said.


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