The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has revised the protocol for using the ‘rapid antibody test’ in hotspot areas for epidemiological studies and surveillance.

The apex medical research body has asked all States to understand the vital facts while using rapid antibody tests.

Recently, India received about 5 lakh rapid antibody testing kits from China. These kits would be used to see the trend or surveillance of COVID-19 in a particular area or hotspot.

However, rapid tests will not be used for making the diagnosis.

“I am writing to you with reference to the rapid antibody test kits for COVID-19 testing. It is understood that many States intend to use these kits in affected areas. The National Task Force at ICMR has carefully reviewed the data evolving from various countries on the use of such kits.

Based on available evidence, the testing strategy for COVID-19 has been revised further,” Dr Balram Bhargava, Director General, ICMR, stated in the letter written to all Chief Secretaries and Principal Secretaries, Health, of States.

Dr Bhargava said that it is critical to understand the following key facts while using the rapid antibody tests.

“Gold standard frontline test for COVID-19 diagnosis in real-time is a PCR based molecular test, which is aimed at early virus detection. The rapid antibody test cannot replace the frontline test. The rapid antibody test is a supplementary tool to assess the prevalence of the diseases within a specific area or perimeter.”

“The rapid antibody test will only be of utility after a minimum of seven days of onset of symptoms. Data about these rapid tests are emerging and understanding of their utility for diagnosis is still evolving.”

“The rapid test kits are useful for epidemiological studies and surveillance purposes. The test has to be done under strict medical supervision. In case, the State does not have a hotspot, these tests may be used for any hotspot which may emerge in the future or as a surveillance tool for epidemiological purposes in such areas where cases have not emerged so far.”

Before starting the raid test, it should be registered in the covid19cc.nic.in/ICMR and data related to the test should be reported on the same, he said.

Dr Raman R Gangakhedkar, head scientist, ICMR, told ANI: “We have received the rapid antibody testing kits and have been provided to the States as per their requirement.”

States like Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat, and Maharastra have got the rapid testing kits and they have initiated the testing process.

ANI on Thursday reported that about 67 Indian firms have got approval from the Central Drug Standard Controller Organisation (CDSCO) for making antibody rapid testing kits for testing COVID-19. Out of 67 companies, five are indigenous and the other 62 are importing antibody rapid testing kits from China.

(ANI)