India received 500,000 rapid antibody testing kits from China on Thursday, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) said.
These will be used for understanding the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) trend and not for diagnosing the infection, it said, insisting India was conducting enough tests as “24 people are tested for one positive case”.
“The kits are not for early diagnosis because antibodies will be visible only in 80 per cent of patients… But it will help us in finding if the infection is increasing or decreasing in hotspots,” said Raman R Gangakhedkar, head scientist, ICMR.
The government has received two types of kits from Guangzhou Wondfo and Zhuhai Livzon to observe antibodies in Covid-19 patients. Both kits have a sensitivity of more than 80 per cent and a specificity of around 84 per cent.
However, one of the tests — called IgM — identifies early signs of an infection by showing antibodies that do not last very long in the body. The other test — called IgG — checks if the immune system is fighting an infection that is not recent.
If a person tests positive, it may not mean that she is immune to the disease. “More research needs to be done to understand if Covid-19 antibodies will protect the patient from contracting the disease again,” Gangakhedkar said.
India will provide virologic test kits to those with a history of international travel and showing symptoms, when the lockdown is lifted. It will also be offered to contacts of laboratory confirmed cases and health workers showing symptoms. All patients showing symptoms of influenza-like illness and severe acute respiratory infection in hotspot areas will also be given these tests.
“Today we have enough stock for testing for the next eight weeks… The rapid test, however, is not for diagnosis but for epidemiological purposes,” Gangakhedkar added.
The ICMR said, “India tests 24 people for one positive case, while Japan tests 11.7, Italy 6.7 and US 5.3. One can’t say India is testing less.”
Sample pooling for molecular tests will also be done in districts where there are no cases. Five samples can be tested in one pool to save on cost and for speedier testing.
On whether there is concern around the criticism of the quality of the Chinese test kits, Gangakhedkar said, “Error will be uniform and the overall trend will be the same.”
India has conducted 290,401 tests, of which over 30,000 were done in the last one day.
Meanwhile, 27 districts in the country across 17 states have not reported a single positive Covid-19 case in the last 14 days while Mahe in Puducherry has not reported any positive case for the last 28 days, according to health ministry data.
Overall, while there has been a fatality rate of 3.3 per cent among Covid-19 patients, 12.02 per cent have also recovered, said Lav Agarwal, joint secretary, health ministry.