Govt To Use Rapid Antibody Tests in Covid-19 Hotspots

New Delhi: To supplement the testing of suspected Covid-19 cases that are being done through diagnostic testing, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) will also use the rapid antibody tests, their interim advisory issued on Thursday said. These antibody tests should be used on those living in hotspot areas, it added.

The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has identified 20 existing Covid-19 hotspots and 22 potential ones, but the criteria for characterising a place as a hotspot is still not revealed, PTI reported.

Government sources have claimed that places where cluster transmission has been identified, such as Bhilwara in Rajasthan, Kasargod in Kerala, and parts of Mumbai were earlier identified as hotspots. Meanwhile, an emergency meeting of the National Task Force was called and scheduled for Thursday evening to finalise the recommendations on antibody tests.

The ICMR’s interim advisory said those patients who test positive after antibody tests need to be confirmed as Covid-19 patients using the Real-Time-Polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test. The throat and nasal swabs of the patients have to be taken for the RT-PCR test. Those who test negative as per antibody tests will have to be quarantined at home.

As per protocol, antibody tests are not used for confirmatory Covid-19 tests as there is a high chance of a ‘false negative’.

“CE-IVD approved kits can be used directly after due approval from Drug Controller General of India and intimation to ICMR,” the interim advisory mentioned.

Last week, the ICMR also sought quotations for the supply of over five lakh antibody kits used for serological testing — these are largely used for surveillance among the community. They can be used on persons who have already been tested positive for the virus or even those who are asymptomatic, and can reveal insights on immunity against the coronavirus.

According to the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, they are blood-based tests used to identify if people have been exposed to a particular pathogen. The serological tests are used during viral infections to see if the patient has an immune response to a pathogen, such as influenza, a fact sheet from the school stated.

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