The Maharashtra government on Friday decided to delay the launch of rapid testing in the state, a day after the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) said the test could be conducted in COVID-19 hotspots. Officials said they will wait for a few days to gain clarity from ICMR.
“There are technical issues. We need to sort them before rapid testing can be started,” said Anup Kumar Yadav, Director, National Health Mission, Maharashtra.
Rapid test is a blood test that analyses presence of anti-bodies in blood against the virus. The test produces results in less than half an hour and is cheaper than the real-time polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test. The US Food and Drug Administration has also approved rapid testing for quicker results in America.
BMC officials said they are not rolling out rapid testing immediately. Mumbai has over 200 clusters sealed after COVID-19 cases emerged there.“We need clarity on who to test, when to test. Not many kits are available right now. We will wait for further directions from ICMR,” an official said.
Dr Sujata Baveja, microbiologist in BMC-run hospitals, said rapid test can be used as a surveillance mechanism to see how many suspected COVID-19 cases are present in community, but a PCR test is needed to confirm the results of the rapid test. Rapid test are prone to false positive and false negatives, meaning it can give an incorrect result. “It is used for widespread testing, but a case cannot be confirmed solely on rapid test results,” she added.
The ICMR on April 2 had issued an interim advisory stating, “Population in hotspot areas may be tested using rapid antibody test. And antibody positives to be confirmed by RT-PCR using throat/nasal swab, antibody negatives to be quarantined at home.”