India Cancels Chinese Antibody Kits: Can You Trust Rapid Tests?

Explained: What is Rapid Antibody Blood Test for COVID-19?

2 min read

As the death toll due to coronavirus rises above 100 in India, both the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and Union Health Ministry have decided to take measures to ramp up the number of COVID-19 tests in the country by allowing blood-based rapid antibody tests.

In an advisory note to the health ministry, ICMR says, "We are expecting delivery of Rapid Test kits (blood-based) for use in response to COVID-19 situation."

As per ICMR, rapid antibody testing will begin in containment zones such as large migration gatherings and evacuees' centers. So far, India has only been relying on RT-PCR (throat/nasal swab) tests for COVID-19 detection but these tests are expensive and time-consuming. On other hand, antibody tests are quick, inexpensive and easy.

FIT spoke to Dr Shahid Jameel who is a Virologist & CEO of Wellcome Trust DBT India Alliance to understand what antibody tests are and how they will help in containing the spread of the novel coronavirus.

He explains, "When you get infected by a virus or any other pathogen, your body reacts to it and produces antibodies. That is what you measure in a antibody response."

He says antibody test simply measures IGG antibody in a blood sample and it can be done using a fingerprick.

A patient who couldn’t get tested earlier or self-recovered can be identified with the help of anitibody test. This can give the government a clear estimation of how much of the population is actually infected or was infected.

Dr Shahid further explains why antibody tests are not for diagnostic purposes. He adds:

In a new advisory released on Saturday, 4 April, ICMR says that if a person is tested positive for antibody test, after clinical assessment, they will be treated in hospital or put in isolation as per protocol. Action as per protocol to be initiated for contact tracing.

However, if a person tests negative, they will either be put in home-quarantine or if warranted they will be tested for PCR.

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