Kerala starts antibody tests in airports for incoming passengers

However, a positive diagnosis for the coronavirus can only be made with the RT-PCR test.
Airport antibody testing
Airport antibody testing
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Kiosks for conducting antibody tests for people coming from outside the state have been set up at airports in Kerala, Health Minister KK Shailaja announced.

The kiosks have been set up in association with HLL Lifecare Ltd, a public sector healthcare company. As many as 14,800 test kits have been made available through Kerala Medical Services Corporation Ltd (KMSCL). Minister Shailaja said that more kits will be procured as more passengers arrive.

The antibody testing kiosks have been set up in Thiruvananthapuram, Ernakulam, Kozhikode and Kannur airports. Depending on the number of people expected to arrive in each, the number of kiosks will vary between five and 10. The antibody tests are primarily meant for those passengers who could not take COVID-19 tests.

Through the antibody tests, the presence of the antibodies immunoglobulin M (IgM) and immunoglobulin G (IgG) can be detected. These are the antibodies that the body develops as a reaction to the presence of the virus. However, the presence of these needn’t confirm the disease.

As TNM had reported previously, the test can only detect antibodies and cannot determine whether someone is currently infected. The test is mainly useful in finding out if an individual has previously been infected. Only the real-time polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) method, which detects the presence of viral genetic material, can be used to confirm active cases. However, due to the nature of sensitivity of the antibody test, even asymptomatic individuals, who are said to be the majority in Indian COVID-19 cases, will screen positive using this method, even if there is a lower viral load (lesser presence of the virus in the blood). 

The health workers conducting the tests will be in Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) kits and also follow all precautions against COVID-19. Priority will be given for pregnant women, new mothers and babies, children under 10 years, people with disability, people with other serious diseases, the elderly and the family members who accompany them.

Those who test positive for the antibody tests will be moved to Covid Care Centres and others will be sent to quarantine. If those in quarantine show symptoms of the disease, they will be sent to Covid First Line Treatment Centre or Covid hospitals.

The results of antibody tests will come in a matter of minutes. However, they cannot replace the RT-PCR (Reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction) tests. COVID-19 can only be confirmed with the latter. Those who test positive in the antibody test will be put under observation in a Covid Care Centre and tested again with RT-PCR to confirm if they have contracted COVID-19.

On June 26, antibody tests were done on 696 people in the capital, 273 people in Ernakulam, 601 in Kozhikode and 171 in Kannur. Out of these, 194 people tested positive for IgM. They have been put under observation for further tests.

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