BENGALURU: Doubts are being raised over the accuracy of COVID-19 tests after a Bengaluru couple decided to test themselves since they came in contact with an infected person last week even though they were not experiencing any symptoms.
Thirty-one-year-old Varun Salaria and his wife Karishma (28) went to Abhayahasta Multispeciality Hospital on March 23 and gave their samples after filling a self-declaration form. "I was doubtful when we were asked to fill the form. They charged us Rs 1200 per person. The next day the result came as positive and the hospital put us through a lot of mental trauma since we live with aged parents and have a 20-month-old son," Salaria told The New Indian Express, adding that he had to inform his office which further led to facing social stigma.
The couple decided to take another test on the same evening and went to Manipal Hospital where they were charged Rs 2900 each. In a matter of 4-5 hours, the result turned negative leaving them confused.
The next day, a person claiming to be a government teacher deputed by the BBMP called them informing them that she would be visiting their house. When they told her about their 'negative COVID status' she accused them of hiding their infection. "The teacher landed at our house and demanded that we show the physical copy of the negative report creating a ruckus. Only after we showed a soft copy, she was convinced and left our apartment," Varun said.
In the evening, the couple went back to Abhayhasta where the hospital told them that they would conduct another test on the same sample. They are still awaiting a result from the hospital.
Two days later on March 26, Varun went to Chinmaya Mission Hospital to get tested for the third time. Here he was asked to pay Rs 300 for doctor consultation and Rs 700 for the test. The result for the third test was also negative.
Terming it unfair, Varun says the bitter experience has led to a distrust in hospitals and the government and a false positive report has put them under a tremendous amount of stress. "If a negative report is handed over to someone who is actually infected, it is even more harmful," Salaria says.
The family is also demanding to know if the hospitals are equipped to conduct COVID tests at all or if there is an unholy nexus between BBMP and hospitals to harass coronavirus patients.
The New Indian Express spoke to Dr Ashok Sherkane, chairman of Abhyahasta where the couple got tested for the first time. Dr Sherkane said that there can be false negatives in RT-PCR but not false positives. "Between the 7th and 10th day from the date of infection, the viral load is more. If the person misses getting tested between this period, there is a rare possibility that the virus was not detected and got negative in other tests. In this case, the person should be treated as positive and maintain distance from the elderly at home," Dr Sherkane said, adding that even with typhoid, the test shows positive only five days after the illness.
He said the positive report has been recorded in the machine, in the case of Varun and his wife and there is no doubt. With cases of false negatives, a CT scan is done to confirm the COVID positive case of a person, he added.
Dr. CN Manjunath, director of Jayadeva Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences and Research and the nodal officer for COVID-19 testing in Karnataka, said the positive report may have been a lab error. "Either the positive report may have been put against the wrong name or the lab technician, uploaded the result as positive instead of negative by mistake. It is an entry error as two other reports have come negative within a span of 48 hours. False positives cannot come on RT-PCR tests," Dr. Manjunath opined.