Lucknow: As India is running out of Covid-19 Test Kits (RTPCR) and Rapid Antibody Test kits are yet to be imported, the Govt of India has started giving permission to the states to start “pool testing”. Uttar Pradesh on Monday became the first state to obtain the clearance from the Centre for “pool testing” of the suspected population.

“Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR) has cleared the state’s proposal in this regard and the testing would start Tuesday onwards,” principal health secretary Amit Mohan Prasad told Monday in his regular press briefing. The group test reduces the number of test kits utilised, compared to the testing of individual samples. It expedites the testing process along with optimisation of resources.

The method is often used during large outbreaks and invisible community transmission, experts say. Andman and Nicobar Islands, a Union Territory, began pool testing (with five samples together) about 10 days ago.

This cost-effective and time-saver testing is expected to be followed by other states soon. Maharashtra has also applied, sources said. Explaining the process, Prasad says, “In pool testing, swab samples of multiple people are pooled together and tested.

If the result of a pool is negative, we can conclude that this segment of population doesn’t Covid-19 infection. However, if the result is positive, then all people in the sample would need individual test.” The group testing of samples will be done using a single RTPCR (Reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction).

The Yogi Adityanath government is yet to finalise number of samples to be taken in one pool. Besides, it is unclear which population or locality will be covered. Dr Amita Jain, state nodal officer for Covid-19 testing told FPJ, “The size of the pool is yet to be decided. Ideally, it should be five samples per pool.

The group testing can’t be done in the hotspot or contamination zone where chances of most of these tests coming positive are high. And we have to repeat the test for all individuals separately which will be time and resource consuming. A buffer zone outside the hotspot can be used for the pool test.”

Experts from Israel have shown that samples of 64 people can be effectively tested. UP is currently testing close to 2,000 samples daily in 10 designated labs in the government set-up. Dr Jain insist, “We have enough test kits so far. But to identify all vulnerable people, we need to scale up the tests. But taking a large number of samples may not serve the purpose.”

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Free Press Journal