Pune: As active coronavirus cases continue to spike in the state of Maharashtra, rapid testing becomes one of the most important processes for early detection of the virus. On Tuesday, Minister of Public Health and Welfare, Rajesh Tope confirmed that Maharashtra has obtained around one lakh rapid antigen testing kits intending to screen people living in areas exposed to COVID-19, and has been listed under the containment zones in the state, along with various public hospitals in Mumbai and Pune.
According to the officials, the kits are expected to provide results within 30 minutes of usage and will be extremely beneficial for screening those patients who need emergency treatment in hospital for COVID-19.
In the first phase of acquisition, 40,000 test kits in total will be purchased. The price of each kit will be obtained at the cost of Rs 450. The test kits will be mainly used for emergency purposes, to screen urgent and trauma cases; women who are pregnant and expecting delivery; and the people living in COVID-19 hotspots, a senior official from the health department said.
But the tests are only obtained for screening purposes. The official said, "Symptomatic individuals who test negative on this test should undergo the regular RT-PCR test for confirmation. And a positive result via the antigen kit should be considered as confirmation."
The antigen tests would increase the rapid testing for some particular or emergency cases of COVID-19, assured Subhash Salunke, the technical advisor on COVID-19 to the Maharashtra government. "It will not be for general cases; the RT-PCR test will be enough for that. Antigen kits will be used with discretion," he said.
Antigen testing kits have been developed by the SD Biosensor which is a firm based in South Korea which has been approved by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR). When the tests are performed, it searches for antibodies produced when the body is exposed to pathogens.
The antigen test kits are affordable and speedy and are also faster than the regular RT-PCR kits. The test kits are required to be transferred to the lab for obtaining results.
TOI quoted a state official as saying, "Currently, the antigen kits will be used on a limited scale. But their use can be scaled up depending on the requirement. If production increases we can use them on a mass scale. Right now, we have just one supplier."
Antigen test kits have been procured by many countries in India to detect the infection among people. But these kits are not as efficient as the RT-PCR testing kits that are still known as the gold standard testing for COVID-19. But the kits are suitable for use. One can see the results through bare eyes and can be implemented on the lab itself.
The RT-PCR test takes around 2-5 hours including the sample transportation duration as well.
An ICMR advisory said, "These specifications limit the widespread use of the RT-PCR test and also impedes quick augmentation of testing capacity in various containment zones and hospital settings."
It usually takes 30 minutes for an authentic rapid antigen test to reveal the results as negative or positive which is much quicker than the other tests available in the country.