Coronavirus testing: ICMR looks for 5 lakh antibody kits to enhance screening process

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Coronavirus Update: In order to ramp up the screening process, the Indian Council of Medical Research is adopting an approach taken by South Korea. The council has asked manufacturers to supply 5 lakh antibody kits for a serological test that would help in screening the patients, the Indian Express reported. According to the report, the government experts believe that this particular screening test has helped countries like South Korea pull the brakes on increasing Coronavirus cases. In fact, other countries have also used it to "flatten the pandemic curve," the report added.

The report citing Dr V Ravi, who is head of NIMHANS Department of Virology, said that the antibody test for the novel Coronavirus will help screening those who have come in contact with a COVID-19 positive person and are currently being quarantined. This screening test is able to give results in a short time of two-three hours, the report said.

What is this serological test?

The report highlights that India is currently doing a reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test for detecting the genetic material (RNA) of Coronavirus. The new antibody test seeks how the body reacts to the virus. The report said that the conventional RT-PCR test is a direct evidence but antibody test can only indicate the presence of the virus, therefore, it is indirect evidence. Antibody tests will be used as a large number of people in India cannot directly go for RNA test. For antibody tests, only a few drops of blood are required to check.

It is to note that this test only indicates the presence of virus and will not definitely confirm COVID-19 infection. The idea is to screen more suspected people in a short time but it will not be applied for mass testing.

RT-PCR test currently becomes complicated as there is a shortage of PCR kits. Explaining how South Korea handled, Dr Ravi said that South Korea first screened people with travel history and contact. Then they conducted the antibody test and swab test was done on people who came out positive during screening. India is also looking forward to adopting a similar approach.

Meanwhile, ICMR has asked for test kits to be delivered at six locations in India- Chennai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Mumbai, Dibrugarh, and Bhopal. According to the report, ICMR has also asked suppliers to procure 7 lakh RNA extraction kits.