The kit made by a Singaporean manufacturer will give results in 15 minutes, a senior health department official said.

 COVID-19 Karnataka to do mass testing with the help of imported rapid kitRepresentational image
Health Coronavirus Sunday, March 29, 2020 - 19:34

In an attempt to emulate the South Korean model of doing mass testing of coronavirus (COVID-19) using rapid technology, the Karnataka government wants to buy one lakh such antibody-based kits. The kits will be sourced from a Singaporean manufacturer and will cost less than Rs 800 per test compared to the present Rs 2,500 per test. The kit will take a blood sample from a patient’s finger with a pin prick.

Speaking with TNM, Dr CN Manjunath, the Director of Jayadeva Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences and Research and the nodal officer of  testing for COVID-19 in the state, said, “We are going to acquire it from a National Institute of Virology (NIV) Pune validated company — Sensing Self Private Limited. These kits will give results in 15 minutes. I have been told these kits have been tested elsewhere in Europe, South Korea amongst other places.”

Sensing Self is among the 12 private rapid testing solutions approved by NIV to screen people.

“If these test kits say that a patient is COVID-19 negative then we won’t do further tests, but if there is a positive result, we will confirm it via our legacy testing,” explained Dr Manjunath. He further noted that it was this system that had worked in South Korea and helped them to understand the burden of the disease.

“Otherwise in our present method of testing, we will not know many cases and there will be many hidden cases,” he added.

Worldwide, the South Korean model has been hailed as they have been successful in tackling the virus without disrupting much of normal life. On an average they did around 18,000 such tests per day and managed to reach a measure of positive cases to less than 100 in a matter of two weeks from a peak of 909 at the end of February.

As of date, Karnataka has done a total of 3,170 tests. However, the state government has yet to implement a rapid testing protocol.

The tests in place currently are based on polymerase chain reaction (PCR tests) and give results in 24 hours. Rapid testing kits on the other hand may give results within an hour, but they do not give definitive diagnoses and are used to identify if someone has been exposed to the virus.

So far the testing is done in five government and three private laboratories in the state for coronavirus disease—-  Bangalore Medical College, NIV’s Field Unit in Bengaluru, Mysore Medical College, Hassan Institute of Medical Sciences and Shivamogga Institute of Medical Sciences. The three private labs are Neuberg Anand Reference Laboratory, Cancyte Technologies lab in Bengaluru and Kasturba Hospital Lab in Manipal.

Further testing can also be done at the Air Force Command Hospital in Bengaluru. The state government is also in talks with the Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru and National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro-Sciences (NIMHANS) among others. 

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