Kunal Patil

Mumbai: The BMC plans to conduct at least 1,000 rapid tests every day, for which it plans to set up centres at corona hotspots in the city. Experts have welcomed the move, saying this will make it easier to identify suspected cases.

Officials of the Directorate of Medical Education and Research (DMER) officials said they are working on a policy for antibody tests but for now, they have ordered the procurement of these kits.

This decision comes in the wake of the rising numbers of Covid cases and is an effort to increase sample-testing in the city. The Union Health Minister had approved this measure for hotspots.

According to an advisory issued by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), rapid testing kits (for antibody tests or blood tests) need to be deployed in areas where mass testing is required, such as evacuation camps, large cluster areas, and camps for migrant workers.

Health officials said they ordered the rapid testing kits, which will be delivered to them by next week. “Currently, we are making lists of those wards or areas which have the highest number of coronavirus cases.

Once we get the kits, we will begin mass testing and per day, 1,000 tests will be done,” said Additional Municipal Commissioner Suresh Kakani. Dr TP Lahane, director, DMER, said, “We are working on the policy, following which testing will start.”

So far, Mumbai has recorded 526 corona cases and 34 deaths. According to Dr Om Shrivastava, infectious disease expert, “It is a great move by the BMC as it will help them to identify suspected patients, isolate them and start treatment immediately.

Rapid testing is a blood test where virus antibodies can be identified in five minutes.” Meanwhile, the BMC is likely to ask private laboratories to conduct these tests.

Tests only for containment areas, clusters: India has thus far used the RT-PCR, or the reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction test on nasal or throat swab samples of suspected patients to test for CoVID-19.

These tests can take between 12-24 hours to show results. In comparison, the rapid antibody tests identify disease-fighting antibodies in blood samples and can deliver results in 45 minutes to two hours.

However, since antibodies are usually detectable only after 7 to10 days of being infected by the virus, such tests could throw up false negatives – an infected person may appear normal in the blood test or false positives -- people who had the infection, but have since been cured (and who, therefore, possess the antibodies required to be immune).

To avoid such false negatives, the ICMR, which is overseeing the country’s testing regime, has asked both government and private laboratories to stick to the RT-PCR tests for diagnostic purposes and is allowing antibody tests only in containment areas and clusters. For now, the ICMR has permitted states to also use the rapid antibody test kit used for tuberculosis patients for CoVID-19 patients also.

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