The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) wrote to the state governments on Wednesday, April 22, specifying the protocol for conducting the rapid antibody tests. In a letter written to all the Chief Secretaries, the ICMR reiterated that rapid antibody tests are to be largely used as a tool for surveillance to ascertain the formation of antibodies in a person exposed to COVID-19. It noted that the utility of the test was evolving globally. Moreover, the ICMR stressed that the RT-PCR test was the confirmatory test for the diagnosis of the novel coronavirus infection.
It made it clear that the rapid antibody test cannot replace the RT-PCR test. Mentioning that it would continue to collect data from states to assess the utility of these tests, the ICMR stated that it would continue to advise the states on this issue. The state governments have been directed to use the respective tests for the purpose for which they are meant.
Indian Council of Medical Research has issued a protocol for using rapid antibody tests for COVID-19 after issues were raised by few States about the rapid antibody tests. These latest directions come a day after ICMR advised States not to use rapid testing kits for next 2 days. pic.twitter.com/QUYMBe7L9z— ANI (@ANI) April 22, 2020
On Tuesday, the ICMR advised the state governments to not use the rapid testing kits for the next two days. This development came after various states complained about the accuracy of the aforesaid kits.
Addressing a press briefing, Dr.Raman Gangakhedkar - the head of Epidemiology and Communicable Diseases at ICMR, conceded that there was a significant variation in the positive RT-PCR samples. At the same time, he observed that tests might be in a crude form as only three and a half months had passed since the outbreak of the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Dr. Raman Gangakhedkar remarked, "You must have heard that the rapid test kits have been distributed in all the states. Yesterday, we received a complaint from a state that there is low detection. So, we asked three states today. After asking them, we have reached the conclusion that there is a lot of variation in the positive RT-PCR samples. In some places, ranging from 6% to 70%, the test on RT-PCR samples is coming positive. This is not a good thing as we will have to investigate it when the variation is huge."