Govt approves antigen test for rapid corona detection

Staff Correspondent

22 September, 2020 12:00 AM printer

The government has allowed the public hospitals across the country to carry out antigen-test for rapid detection of coronavirus infection in the country.

The health and family welfare ministry made the announcement on Monday through a circular on September 17.

Earlier on July 5, the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) urged the health and family welfare ministry to allow antigen-based Covid-19 test, the health directorate sources said.

A circular signed by Bilkis Begum, deputy secretary of the health service division of the health ministry said the "antigen-based test has been permitted in all government hospitals, district hospitals, government PCR labs and all health institutes as per the proposal of the health directorate and the interim guideline of the World Health Organisation".

Now the Reverse Transcription-Polymerase Chain Reaction (rRT-PCR) method is being used in the country to detect the coronavirus infection in public hospitals across the country.

The health experts appreciated the decision of introducing antigen test, saying antigen tests will make Covid-19 diagnosis faster and less expensive than the RT-PCR tests and ramp up testing capacity.

"We decided not to approve rapid antibody tests while the prime minister gave her consent to introducing antigen tests on a limited scale. The tests will be conducted only at state-run healthcare facilities," health and family welfare minister Zahid Maleque said in last month.

According to the DGHS proposal, antigen tests would be carried out on patients with symptoms. If anyone is found positive, the patient would be isolated.

However, if anyone is found negative in the antigen tests, they would be tested again by RT-PCR or GeneXpert machine for confirmation.

Rapid antigen tests are commonly used in the diagnosis of respiratory pathogens, including influenza viruses and respiratory syncytial virus, according to US CDC.

Antigen tests are immunoassays that detect the presence of a specific viral antigen, which implies current viral infection. They are relatively inexpensive and can be used at the point-of-care. Devices used in the tests can return results in about 15 minutes.

Antigen tests for SARS-CoV-2 are generally less sensitive than viral tests that detect nucleic acid using reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR).