THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The state government has given the nod to private laboratories to conduct antibody tests to detect COVID-19. The government has decided to conduct antibody tests on suspected cases -- even if their RT-PCR tests turn negative -- in addition to symptomatic people in the high risk contact category. The government has issued detailed directives regarding the test kits and time frame.
Rs 800 will be the fee for antibody testing. It will be free of cost for those under the Ayushman Bharat Pradhaan Manthri Jan Arogya Yojana and other eligible categories. BPL patients under Karunya Health scheme too will not have to pay the fee.
Only NABL-accredited laboratories which have been approved by the ICMR can conduct these antibody tests. The government also fixed the criteria for choosing laboratories, antibody test kits, sample collections, test results and other related procedures. The laboratories should register with the portals hosted by the state government and ICMR in this regard.
Laboratories can send requisite documents to firstname.lastname@example.org for state government registration. The test results should be uploaded to the health department portal. Laboratories should give an assurance to the government of non-disclosure of results. In addition, there shall also be a communication protocol in place. Only those laboratories agreeing to all the laid down conditions by the government will be accorded approval.
Antibody tests on suspected cases
In addition to suspected cases, antibody tests will also be conducted on those in the high risk category including health workers treating COVID-19 patients and those under the respiratory illnesses clusters. The order further says that the antibody test can be conducted also on those who were cured of a respiratory ailment. The primary and secondary contacts of those found positive too would be tested.
In addition, tests will be conducted on people who attended mass gatherings, festivals and funerals in the last 14 days and people coming from places having numerous positive cases in the past fortnight.
Timeframe for tests
The antibody test should be conducted within seven days of showing symptoms. Asymptomatic people in quarantine should be tested on completion of 14 days. Health workers involved with COVID-19 testing and care should undergo testing after the quarantine period. Those in the high risk category should undergo testing within 7 to 10 days of coming into contact with COVID-19 patients. Those who attended gatherings, festivals, funerals, related rituals and other functions should undergo the test after 7 to 14 days.
ICMR-approved test kits
The test kits approved by ICMR should be used. The State Drugs Controller should inspect these kits. The details of ICMR approved kits are available at https:/www.icmr.nic.in/content/covid-19
Hospitals and laboratories should have facilities to store the samples which should not be kept in air-conditioned rooms. Laboratories can assign trained teams to collect samples from people at home. Such teams should use masks and PPEs and must follow the medical waste protocol.
The nodal officer should ensure that all details are collected from the individual. The microbiologist or lab-in-charge at private laboratories should make the final confirmation of the antibody test results. The results should be uploaded to the state health department website and should not be directly conveyed to the patients. Only after getting the nod from the state health department should the results be intimated.