Punjab is set to scale up Covid-19 rapid antigen testing in the coming days as it has received another lot of 10,000 testing kits.
In the pilot project of rapid antigen testing, five districts — Amritsar, Jalandhar, Patiala, Ludhiana and Mohali — were initially selected a fortnight ago.
Punjab had initially procured 5,000 antigen testing kits and in two weeks’ time conducted around 2,200 tests, out of which 177 tested positive, Punjab’s nodal officer for Covid-19 Dr Rajesh Bhaskar said. He further said that as the new kits had arrived, antigen testing would be done in other districts also which were reporting higher number of cases.
“We are focusing on containment and micro containment zones, and symptomatic and high risk persons while conducting these tests. Rapid antigen testing helps in quick tracing of the infection as the result is out in 30 minutes. This helps in strategies to check further spread by identifying patients quickly and strategising to put them under isolation,” said Dr Bhaskar.
Punjab is also working on the modalities to start a sero survey in which antibodies testing is done to ascertain if the person has been infected in the past and if in reaction to that their body produced anti-bodies.
What is rapid antigen testing?
While in the Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR), RNA testing is done to find out genetic material of the virus, rapid antigen testing looks for surface protein present on the virus. As per Dr Bhaskar, in RT-PCR, the procedure takes time as RNA has to be first extracted, either manually (testing time around 7 hours) or using RNA extraction machines (around 4 hours). Rapid antigen testing is much faster as it involves testing of the surface protein and test result is out in half an hour’s time. In Trunat testing, also based on testing genetic material of the virus, a negative result is out in an hour and positive in two hours. However, Dr Bhaskar said that the sensitivity of antigen testing was lesser as compared to RT-PCR and Trunat.
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