Hyderabad: The health authorities are preparing ground to launch Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) kits in Telangana which promises quick diagnosis of Covid-19 positivity and ensures early isolation and treatment for positive patients.
Following the upsurge in cases of Covid-19, it has become important for the health officials to scale-up testing capacity to the maximum possible levels. While the existing RT-PCR diagnostic tests are gold standard for Covid-19 diagnosis, it has limitations in terms of widespread availability and time taken for the results to be released.
Realising the urgent requirement for a reliable and convenient rapid point-of-care antigen detection assays with high sensitivity and specificity, the health officials have completed the process of acquiring close to 2 lakh RAT kits, which were validated and recommended by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).
What are rapid antigen kits?
Earlier this month, the ICMR had issued directions to all the States to start using RAT testing that will enable them to test more suspects and identify more positive cases. The regulatory authority had validated Standard Q Covid-19 Ag SD Biosensor, being developed by a South Korean biotechnology firm SD Biosensor.
Through RAT kits, nasal swabs are collected to detect antigens, the foreign substance produced by body in response to the immune response to SARS-CoV-2. The antigen tests does not require any specialised machine in a laboratory and displays the results within 30 minutes and can be interpreted with a naked eye. The rapid antigen test can be administered to suspected patients at point-of-care i.e. government hospitals.
Each antigen kit will cost anywhere between Rs. 450 and Rs 500 and ICMR has maintained that they are highly specific and sensitive. If individuals test positive, then they are ‘true positive’, which means they do not need any further confirmation tests. However, in case suspected individuals have tested negative in RAT tests, then they have to undergo RT-PCR test to rule out the infection.
What are the guidelines for usage?
The health officials will follow recommended guidelines of ICMR over usage of the rapid kits. The ICMR has advised individual States to roll-out the RAT kits in all the containment zones identified by the State governments, all Central and State government medical colleges and government hospitals and all private hospitals that are approved by the National Accreditation Board for Hospitals and Healthcare (NABH).
Symptomatic patients with influenza such as illness, asymptomatic persons who are direct relatives of positive patients and high-risk contacts with co-morbidities of confirmed cases will be eligible for tests. According to the ICMR guidelines, persons above 65 years, persons with SARI and ILI symptoms, asymptomatic patients who need hospitalisation for other ailments are also eligible for antigen tests.
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