The Indian Council of Medical Research will start conducting rapid antibody-based blood test by Wednesday in areas reporting coronavirus clusters and hotspots showing high incidence of confirmed cases, The Hindu reported. The research organisation, which is overseeing the country’s testing regime, will receive about 7 lakh rapid antibody testing kits by then, according to ANI.

So far, India has used the RT-PCR or reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction test on nasal or throat swab samples of suspected patients to test for Covid-19. The RT-PCR tests look for the presence of the virus in the DNA. They can take anywhere between 12-24 hours to show results.

Raman R Gangakhedkar, head of Epidemiology and Communicable Diseases Division of the ICMR, said this testing is increasing and that India will be approaching full capacity soon.

In comparison, the rapid antibody tests identify disease-fighting antibodies in blood samples and can deliver results in 45 minutes to two hours. However, since antibodies are usually detectable only after around 7-10 days of being infected by the virus, such tests could throw up false negatives – an infected person may appear normal in the blood test.

“At the same time, we are expecting delivery of Rapid Test kits [blood based] for use in response to Covid-19 situation,” Gangakhedkar added. “By Wednesday this should be up and running. National Task Force deliberated with experts for ascertaining use of these rapid test kits. We aim to start rapid antibody based blood test in clusters [with containment zones], and in large migration gatherings/evacuees centres.”

On April 4, ICMR had released an advisory on how and where rapid test kits can be used. ICMR chief Balram Bhargava had said all states and Union Territories have been issued guidelines for implementing these tests and reports may be entered into the ICMR portal similar to results of real-time RT-PCR tests for Covid-19.

The Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation had uploaded the list of approved testing kits on its website on Sunday. It includes 25 RT-PCR or reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction test kits. However, it is not clear whether 29 rapid testing kits have final approval or if they need to get validated by Pune’s National Institute of Virology.

This came after the All India Drug Action Network wrote to the government about the rapid coronavirus home screening testing kit, saying such “activities are a mockery of the government policy”. The drug watchdog wrote in connection with Bengaluru-based biotechnology startup Bione’s “simple point-of-care home screening kit”.

Also read:

  1. Coronavirus: Kerala announces rapid blood tests – ICMR says it was not consulted
  2. Coming soon: Blood tests to map the scale of India’s coronavirus outbreak