The government is planning to start rapid testing for coronavirus in the country aiming to ease its diagnosis process as virus deaths and cases of infection have been increasing day by day.
Sources said the government considers introducing the low-cost and rapid testing for the virus as health experts also favour the plan, saying that the rapid testing will cover maximum people and thus check further transmission of the disease.“We are seeking an alternative to the PCR test for diagnosing Covid-19. Now, the government is thinking about rapid and low-cost test for coronavirus. We will implement it after finalising decision in meetings,” a top official of Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) told the daily sun.
Health Services Division of Health and Family Welfare Ministry said currently the coronavirus infection test is being carried out through RT PCR (Real Time Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction) system test at a total of 68 public and private laboratories across the country.
The coronavirus test service started on January 21 free of cost but the health ministry has recently fixed fees for the virus test. The Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research (IEDCR) first started the virus test at RT PCR laboratory and later the test facility has been expanded.
Talking to the daily sun, Dr Nazrul Islam, a member of the national advisory committee on Covid-19, said the advisory committee also has advised the government to introduce rapid antigen test for Covid-19.
“Rapid antigen test for coronavirus is needed in hospitals as physicians can detect the patients before taking him for surgery or other treatment, immediately. PCR test result is a delayed process. So we need rapid testing service. If proper rapid antigen testing is available, then it will be better,” he said.
Habibur Rahman, director of the Management Information System (MIS) at the DGHS, said the government is planning to introduce rapid testing system for diagnosing Covid-19 in a bid to provide immediate reports of the virus infection test.Talking to the daily sun, some physicians said rapid coronavirus testing is urgent as many patients without symptom of Covid-19 go to the non-Covid hospitals for treatment while they spread the virus among physicians, health workers and other patients.
On the other hand, many Covid-19 patients also got the diagnostic report after around 5 to 14 days of giving samples which kept them tensed till receiving the report, they added.
Prof Dr Kanak Kanti Barua, vice-chancellor of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU), said if proper rapid antigen test is available, then it will ease the virus diagnostic process or detection of the SARS COV-2 virus.
“The purpose of PCR is to catch acute Covid-19 patients. Its alternative is antigen test through which a part of virus can be detected. These two tests are usually performed within 7 days of infection. If these tests failed to detect infection or if anybody wants to see whether he was infected before and developed any prove of infection, an antibody is a choice,” said Prof Dr Saif Ullah Munshi, chairman of Virology Department at the BSMMU.
"Therefore, these two tests should be used one after another in different stages with different aims. Rapid test can be used to detect both either antigen or antibody,” he said, adding that a number of coronavirus tests mainly for detection of the antibody have been approved by the US FDA for emergency use.
“Currently, it takes about four to five days for the PCR test results to come out after the sample has been collected. Therefore, to give the test result in time with low expenditure, both rapid tests i.e. antigen and antibody should be checked through clinical trials and finally should be permitted in Bangladesh immediately,” the virologist added.
According to health experts, the rRT-PCR can accurately detect the presence of specific genetic material in the virus. The serology test detects the presence of antigen (proteins given off by the virus) or antibody (proteins that the patient develops after being exposed to the virus) in the human body.
With the use of appropriate rapid antigen tests along with rRT-PCR, the risk of infection can be significantly reduced as more people with symptoms can be tested. Also, high-risk professionals and high-risk regions can be given priority for testing, they added.