The Karnataka government is set to launch rapid antibody-based tests for COVID-19 in the state after it had to roll back on the first attempt.
While the state had acquired 50,000-plus kits, including those sent by the Centre from Chinese manufacturers, they were returned as they did not match the desired quality.
The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) had, at the time, advised state governments not to try out kits made by Chinese companies due to their poor reliability. The test would determine if an individual has been exposed to SARS-CoV-2 by checking for the presence of antibodies against the virus in the blood.
Read: COVID-19: What is ELISA, the antibody test developed by ICMR-NIV Pune?
Rapid kits, as opposed to legacy testing, are quick and inexpensive. However, they are not entirely reliable, like conventional tests. A patient will be declared COVID-19 positive only after they test positive via legacy testing.
“We have taken a call to introduce rapid testing again even though our earlier plans regarding them did not work out. This was because their efficacy was not upto the desired standards. Now, we have tried out kits made by three manufacturers. Out of them is one South Korean, one from Netherlands and one an Indian manufacturer. They have so far proved to be good. We are considering placing orders for 50,000 such kits. We will try it out in Bidar district first,” said Dr CN Manjunath, Director of Jayadeva Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences and Research and the nodal officer of testing for COVID-19 in the state.
“We will locally validate all batches of orders which we receive from here onwards and put them to use only when their efficacy is 75% plus. Otherwise, we will return them,” he added.
A trial for one of these kits, made by the South Korean manufacturer, was tried in Kolar district. Kolar District Health Officer Dr Vijaykumar said they have done around 800 tests with these kits; among them, 350 tests were then verified through swab tests and the results were uniform.
As of Monday evening, Bidar has 13 active cases, with 1 death and 13 other patients who have been discharged following their recovery.
Officials suggested that since most of the cases are asymptomatic in the state and in the country, the way forward is to do mass testing.
Rapid testing kits have proved to be beneficial for countries like South Korea and Germany, which have been able to contain the spread of the virus better than most countries since the onset of the pandemic.
Dr Manjuanth suggested that while red zones have to be prioritised for testing to contain the virus spread, random testing has to be done in green zones.
“If no random tests are coming back as positive, then it will mean that the entire area is still unaffected by the virus. If we find random tests in green zones come back positive, then it might mean that there is a possibility of community transmission,” he said.
As of data collected till May 10, 69% of the infections in the state are through contact transmission, 9% of the infected patients have international travel history while 13% have domestic travel history. 8% of all patients have either severe acute respiratory infection (SARI) or Influenza like illness (ILI). A total of 1% of the patients do not have either travel, contact history or SARI/ILI.