ICMR sets new protocol for rapid antibody test to detect COVID-19 in hotspot areas

In a bid to see whether the coronavirus is getting transmitted in the hotspot areas, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has set a fresh protocol for healthcare workers to start with rapid antibody-based blood test for COVID-19.

The top medical research body has framed a newer strategy for areas reporting in clusters (containment zone), in large migration gatherings and evacuee’s centres, where large number of COVID-19 cases are arising.

ICMR stated that cases of Influenza-like Illness (ILI) are to be monitored in health facilities. Any surge in cases are to be monitored and brought to the notice of surveillance officer or chief medical officer for additional investigation.

“We have identified several hotspot areas where large numbers of COVID-19 cases are cropping up and rapid anti-body test is most suitable to detect whether the disease is spreading in the area or not… Also, rapid antibody test give quick results. Once a person is positive for rapid anti-body test, he or she should be quarantined for 14 days and a RT-PCR test should be done as a confirmatory test,” Dr R Ganga Khedkar of ICMR told ANI.

“We have issued fresh guidelines for healthcare workers which say that all healthcare workers who are doing the rapid antibody test should use gloves, mask and headcovers. Healthcare workers collecting throat or nasal swab should follow standard national infection control guidelines,” he said.

The advisory also mentioned that as a matter of abundant precautions, all symptomatic ILI persons should be advised home quarantine for 14 days. At facility level, symptomatic ILI individuals are to be tested using rapid antibody test.

The guidelines mentioned, “Antibody test negative: if warranted, confirm by real time RT PCR using throat or nasal swab. If RT PCR negative: likely non COVID19 ILI and if RT PCR positive: confirmed COVID 19 case and action as per protocol to be initiated for isolation, treatment and contact tracing.”

“Anti-body test positive: After clinical assessment, treatment in hospital or isolation as per protocol. Action to be taken as per protocol to initiated for contact tracing,” it said.
The ICMR stated that the rapid antibody test approved by US-FDA CE-IVD or non CE-IVD validated by ICMR-NIV with marketing approval by DCGI be used.

To ensure that all such cases are monitored and necessary action is initiated with respect to infectious can disease management, ICMR has sought details of all test results to its portal and update real time data. Failure to do so they will be held liable to action under Disaster Management Act, 2005.

As of now, India has reported over 3,000 cases of COVID-19 and 75 deaths so far.