NEW DELHI: The ICMR Director General has written to the Health Secretary, asking her to disseminate in states and Union territories the advisory to start rapid antibody based blood tests for COVID-19.

The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) on Saturday issued the advisory to start rapid antibody based blood tests for COVID-19 in areas reporting clusters and in large migration gatherings or evacuee centres.

“Overall testing for COVID-19 using real-time RT PCR is increasing and we will be approaching full capacity in near future. At the same time, we are expecting delivery of Rapid Test kits (blood based) for use in response to COVID-19 situation,” ICMR DG Balram Bhargava said in his letter to health secretary Preeti Sudan.

The National Task Force deliberated with experts for ascertaining use of these rapid test kits and the draft of the suggested algorithm was also discussed in detail with technical experts from the Health Ministry and inputs were included in the final version which is feasible for implementation in the field conditions, he said.

The advisory to start rapid antibody based blood test for COVID-19, in clusters (with containment zones), and in large migration gatherings or evacuees centres is now available at ICMR website, he said.

“The same may please be further disseminated to all States/UTs along with operational guidelines for implementation and roles and responsibilities for implementation,” Bhargava said.

Reports of the tests may be entered by the respective facilities on the ICMR portal similar to results of real-time RT PCR tests for COVID-19, he said.

The results of antibody tests similar to blood tests are available in 15-30 minutes.

“Cases of influenza-like illness to be monitored in health facilities. Any surge in cases to be monitored and brought to the notice of surveillance officer/CMO for additional investigation,” the advisory had said.

As a matter of abundant precautions, all symptomatic persons with influenza-like illness should be advised home quarantine for 14 days. At facility level, symptomatic individuals with influenza-like illness to be tested using rapid antibody tests, the apex health research body had said in its advisory.

If antibody test comes out negative, then if warranted, it can be confirmed by real-time RT-PCR using throat/nasal swab.

At present, the government uses the RT-PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests to detect the coronavirus from samples of throat or nasal swab of people with symptoms or high-risk individuals who might have come in contact with a positive patient.

RT-PCR negative indicates the likelihood of a non-COVID-19 influenza-like illness while RT-PCR positive means it is a confirmed case and action as per protocol should be initiated for isolation, treatment and contact tracing, the advisory stated.

If the antibody test comes out to be positive, there has to be a clinical assessment and treatment in hospital or isolation as per protocol.

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