AGENCIES, New Delhi: The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) on Saturday released guidelines for the medical profession on the use of point-of-care rapid antibody test (blood test) to diagnose the coronavirus infections.
Experts at ICMR task who were involved by the government to review the country’s COVID-19/coronavirus test criteria, have been working on the fine points in the protocol, including how to conduct the test in high-and-low-risk areas, hotspots among others.
Dr Randeep Guleria, director, All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Delhi said, “The modalities need to thought through, as conducting rapid tests has its own set of pros and cons. All the parameters need to be considered before guidelines can be issued.”
The ICMR mandated strategy touches upon areas reporting clusters (containment zone) and in large migration gatherings/evacuees centres. It suggests in cases of Influenza Like Illness (ILI) to be monitored in health facilities. Any surge in cases are to be monitored and brought to the notice of Surveillance Officer/CMO for additional investigation. As precaution, all symptomatic ILI cases should be advised home quarantine for 14 days.
At facility level, symptomatic ILI individuals are to be tested using rapid antibody, that is blood tests. If the antibody test is negative, then it is up to the doctors to decide how to proceed further. If the situation demands they can advise real-time RT-PCR test using throat/nasal swab to reconfirm.
If the report confirms COVID-19, then action as per protocol has to be initiated which means isolation, treatment and contact tracing. Alternatively, if real-time RT-PCR not done, home quarantine and repeat antibody testing after 10 days of the last rapid antibody test.
In the case where antibody tests positive, then there is possibility of recent infection, so the patient is recommended for quarantine for another 10 days and contact tracing initiated.
“The people living in hotspot areas may be tested using a rapid antibody test. Antibody positives to be confirmed by RT-PCR (real-time reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction, one of the most accurate laboratory methods for detecting, tracking, and studying Covid-19) using throat/nasal swab and antibody negatives to be quarantined at home,” said the ICMR advisory.
“It is meant for getting quicker results when a larger number of people need to be tested. It will help in knowing the exact disease burden in a short span of time. However, we recommend confirmatory PCR-based test for all positive results,” said an ICMR official.