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India to begin antibody tests to confirm Covid-19 exposure

This could be used on a mass scale in the community as a specific test for Covid-19.

, ET Bureau|
Last Updated: Mar 27, 2020, 01.36 PM IST
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Covid-19: ICMR invites bids for antibody kit for virus diagnosis
The supply, according to the ICMR has to be ensured at Dibrugarh, Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai, Hyderabad, Bhopal. The last date of receiving quotations is March 26.
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NEW DELHI: In a first, India is set to start antibody tests for the coronavirus to confirm whether a person had previously been infected with the virus, a move that will help understand the epidemiology of Covid-19 in the country.

Known as a serological test, which looks for antibodies in the blood, it is different from the current, diagnostic tests that determine active infection through nasal or throat swabs. Serological tests will allow doctors to determine if a person has previously had a viral infection, based on the presence of antibodies in the blood, possibly even if they were asymptomatic.

“This is not a confirmatory test. The serological test is for the purpose of surveillance to generate data and understand whether people got exposed to the virus,” said Randeep Guleria, chairman of the high-level expert committee formed to review the testing strategy for Covid-19 by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).

The ICMR invited bids on Wednesday for the antibody kit for diagnosis of Covid-19.

While tests on random samples done by ICMR so far suggest here is no community transmission yet in India, experts said the serological tests will further allow researchers to trace and identify people and better understand how the virus behaves.

“This could be used on a mass scale in the community as a specific test for Covid-19 at a very affordable price,” said Harsh Mahajan, founder of Mahajan Imaging Centre.

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Antibody tests don’t always pick up early viral infections, but they can tell if someone had ever had a particular virus—maybe even if they were asymptomatic. This type of testing is invaluable for surveillance and investigational purposes, experts said.

The high-level committee on testing strategy is now contemplating whether serology tests should be conducted on those who came in contact with people who tested positive for Covid-19.

“It will allow us to trace in a much more population-based way who has had the infection, population who got mild infection and recovered, and the pattern of the infection,” said an expert who did not wish to be identified.

The ICMR has estimated a requirement of 1 million test kits for the country.

“Some kits from Korea have already been sent for evaluation and validation to National Institute of Virology-Pune,” said another expert.
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