BENGALURU: Fever clinics in Bengaluru, Mysuru and Bidar are among the first hotspots where rapid antibody-based blood testing will be carried out starting April 13. According to Dr CN Manjunath, director, Sri Jayadeva Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences and Research and nodal officer for COVID-19 lab testing, the state is procuring one lakh test R-PCR (rapid-polymerase chain reaction) kits, which are arriving on April 12.
“These tests will be for early diagnosis, wherein people showing only one or two symptoms can be tested. This will also allow us to scale up the numbers being tested,” Dr Manjunath explains, adding that this will also help to detect the infection in just about two-and-a-half hours, against the current seven hours. These kits can be used from small clusters to the village level, which is important right now, he says.
According to sources, a series of meetings have been held among officials to design a plan to administer the test in districts that have a high number of cases.
“Other than Nanjangud, Bidar, Belagavi and Chikkaballapur clusters, we will also do door-to-door surveillance in suspected areas,” says a source from the department of health and family welfare. They may also test the migrant population, the source adds.
However, antibody tests are only for screening and not confirmatory in nature, says Dr Giridhara R Babu, professor, Epidemiology, Public Health Foundation of India, “Antibody tests indicate whether someone has been infected recently or not, but the confirmation can be made based only on the RT-PCR method,” he says.
Dr Manjunath adds, “If we test 1,000 people and 15 test positive, we can send those samples for PCR testing to confirm. But those whose results are negative using the rapid test kit still have to be under observation, as they may test positive later.”
Existing testing system - Real Time Polymerase Chain Reaction or RT-PCR - is said to be the best way to detect the illness, and takes 5-7 for results. Rapid antibody testing or serological antibody blood testing gets quicker results, and uses the blood sample of a suspected patient. This method provides results in 15-30 minutes.