FAQ: ICMR Approves Rapid Antigen Home Testing Kit; What to Know
The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) on Wednesday, 19 May, released an advisory allowing for the use of Rapid Antigen Tests for COVID testing at home.
A few weeks ago in their previous COVID testing guidelines, ICMR had mentioned that they were pushing to ramp up Rapid Antigen Testing (RAT) in order to ease the pressure off RT-PCR tests and testing labs.
So far the ICMR has only approved one RAT kit—CoviSelfTM(PathoCatch) COVID-19 OTC Antigen LF device— for self use at home.
Coviself has been developed by Pune based Mylab Discovery Solutions Ltd.
What is Rapid Antigen testing? Who should do it? How does it compare to RT-CPR tests? FIT answers all your FAQs.
What is Rapid Antigen Testing?
First things first, what is a Rapid Antigen Test, and how does it work?
The COVID-19 antigen test, also known as the Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) is a diagnostic tool that can quickly detect COVID infection in a person.
While RT-PCR tests—considered the ‘gold standard’ of COVID-19 testing— detects the genetic material from the virus, the antigen test looks for protein fragments in or on the virus.
The test is done using samples collected from the nasal cavity of an individual with a swab.
Being quick, efficient and cost-effective, RATs are considered good alternatives to RT-PCR tests, especially as a tool for large scale screening.
How does a Rapid Antigen Test compare to an RT-PCR test?
While RT-PCR tests can be expensive and require specialised equipment in labs, and careful transportation, RATs are much more economical and portable.
RT-PCR tests can take days to process, and a major advantage of the RAT, as mentioned by ICMR, is that it has a short turnaround time of 15-30 minutes.
Making these testing kits available in the market for self-testing could considerably reduce the burden on RT-PCR testing labs in the country.
How do I use the kit?
Mylab's Coviself is a self-use rapid antigen testing kid that can be bought without a prescription, and is fairly easy to use.
It is a nasal swab test and the sample collection process is similar to that of the RT-PCR test.
To administer the test properly, you will have to follow the instructions on the testing kit.
A home testing mobile has been developed by the company to go with the test.
The app contains detailed instructions, and will also display the results of the test.
After the testing procedure, you will have to click a picture of your test strip and upload it to the app.
According to the advisory, "data in the app of your mobile phone will be centrally captured in a secure server which is connected with the ICMR COVID-19 testing portal, where all data will be eventually stored."
They go on to assure, "patient confidentiality will be fully maintained,"
Who should be using them?
The ICMR has made it clear in its advisory that only symptomatic patients, and those who have come directly into contact with infected people are to test themselves.
They also advise against repeated or indiscriminate testing.
How accurate is it?
Though it is a lot faster and has a high accuracy rate when it comes to positive results, RATs have a higher chance of false negatives than RT-PCR tests.
It is possible that RAT could present false negatives in case of people with a low virus load.
For this reason, it is advised that symptomatic patients who test negative on a rapid antigen test, also get an RT-PCR test done.
While awaiting your RT-PCR results, you are advised to treat the symptoms as covid and take the required measures including self-isolation.
However, in the case of those who test positive, no repeat testing is required.
When will it be available?
Coviself will be available in more than 7 lakh physical and online pharmacies by the end of next week, Sujeet Jain, the director of Mylab told ANI.
How much will a RAT kit cost?
The Coviself testing kit manufactured by Mylab Discovery Solutions Ltd is likely to cost 250 rupees.
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