India has already begun testing for the Coronavirus antibody in all the airports around the country by using the rapid antibody testing kits. These testing kits are for those who are coming from abroad in airports. Testing for antibodies has become a necessity in order to ascertain the virus does not spread as much. However, health officials have come up against a disturbing problem while using these test kits.
The officials point out that they have doubts about the specificity of the tests. This is because the number of false positives is very high for these test kits. They point out that those testing positive to antibodies immunoglobulin M (IgM) or immunoglobulin G (IgG) are usually those who have acquired the infection much earlier and they might not be infectious.
Coronavirus Antibody Test Kits by ICMR
An article in the latest issue of the British Medical Journal (June 24, 2020) has noted that the existing antibody tests are “so vague that it’s impossible to know how accurate the tests are, especially for people with mild or no symptoms or whose symptoms have gone.’’
The antibody test definitely finds some people who are positive but not all of them. It will also wrongly identify many as a false positive or false negative. In Thiruvananthapuram, India last week, 24 samples tested IgM positive were sent for RT-PCR tests but none of them tested positive in the latter, a doctor working in government service said.
The sensitivity of kits is also an issue as they have been rated less accurate all over the world due to this. The ICMR has already withdrawn the kits supplied by them due to this. The kits procured by the state government also faced the same issue in quality tests. Dr. N Sulphi, vice-president, Indian Medical Association says it will be a big risk judging people as positives and negatives by conducting the Coronavirus antibody tests.
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Suryapratim Ray is an engineer, author, robotics hobbyist, and an active Quoran. Being a technical blogger, he covers the good, bad, and ugly of science on a regular basis at Sciencenews18. In addition to his passion for writing, he’s equally keen on learning classical music.