The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Health and Family Welfare in its recent report on Coronavirus/COVID-19 said that it is 'worried' at the use of less reliable diagnostic tests which increase the chances of false negatives. The chairperson of the parliamentary standing committee on health and Rajya Sabha MP Ram Gopal Yadav, submitted the report titled, 'Outbreak of Pandemic COVID-19 and its Management' to Rajya Sabha chairman M Venkaiah Naidu.
To bring forth the true picture of the testing capacity in India, the report said that the government “must assess the veracity of Rapid Antigen Test vis-à-vis RT-PCR and other diagnostic tests. The panel has strongly recommended that testing facilities are ramped up for more accurate tests.
Earlier, Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has recommended the use of Standard Q COVID-19 Ag detection assay or antigen detection test as a point of care diagnostic assay for testing under certain settings in combination with RT-PCR test.
Those who test negative for COVID-19 by rapid antigen test should be definitely tested sequentially by RT-PCR to rule out infection, whereas a positive test should be considered as a true positive and does not need reconfirmation by RT-PCR test, ICMR said in an advisory.
The test can be interpreted as positive or negative after 15 minutes of putting the sample into the well by appearance of test and control lines, which can be read with a naked eye. The maximum duration for interpreting a positive or negative test is 30 minutes.
First let us understand what is the rapid antigen detection test for COVID-19?
It is a test on swabbed nasal samples that detects antigens that are found on or within the SARS-CoV-2 virus. It is performed outside the conventional laboratory setting. The test is used to quickly obtain a diagnostic result. Antigen testing is comparatively faster and cheaper than the RT-PCR technology. It also very accurately detects positive cases of COVID-19.
Since, SARS-CoV-2 has several known antigens, including its nucleocapsid phosphoprotein and spike glycoprotein, which are the visible protrusions on its surface, it is important to take an antigen testing that reveals if a person is currently infected with a pathogen such as the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Once the infection has gone, the antigen disappears.
In view of this, there is urgent need of a reliable point-of-care rapid antigen detection test with good sensitivity and specificity for early detection of the disease.
(Inputs from ICMR)