State to start pooled sampling, rapid antibody testing to speed up results

State to start pooled sampling, rapid antibody testing to speed up results
Kolkata: The West Bengal government has decided to adopt a two-pronged approach to stop the spread of the coronavirus in the state. To ramp up COVID-19 testing across the state with limited resources, the state government is set to start pooled testing of up to five samples to cover the maximum number of people, particularly in regions where the prevalence rate is low. In another move, the government has also decided to conduct rapid antibody tests or Serological tests in infected areas.

Meanwhile, the state government alleged that the test kits supplied around 2 weeks ago by NICED have turned out to be faulty and unreliable, in a series of tweets on the handle of the Health and Family Welfare department. The claim comes in response to the complaint raised by a section that Bengal is being too slow with testing. As the faulty test kits are throwing up 'inconclusive' results, several tests are being done again, delaying the entire process, claimed the state government through the tweets.

The health department has issued an order, recommending pooled testing so that RT-PCR kits can be used on more number of people amid a shortage of these test kits. Based on an advisory from the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) suggestions, the state government has decided to use pooled samples to screen COVID-19. As per the ICMR guidelines, pooled testing will work only in low COVID-19 prevalence areas -- initially, in the places where the prevalence is less than 2 per cent. However, the method is not recommended in areas where the prevalence rate is more than 5 per cent. As the COVID-19 cases are on the rise across the country, the ICMR had on April 13, issued an advisory on the feasibility of using pooled samples for molecular testing.

The ICMR in its advisory said: "In areas with positivity of 2-5 per cent, sample pooling for PCR screening may be considered only in community survey or surveillance among asymptomatic individuals, strictly excluding poling samples of individuals with known contact with confirmed cases.

" The guideline also says that the preferable number of samples to be pooled is five. "Though more than two samples can be pooled but considering the higher possibility of missing positive samples with low viral load, it is strongly discouraged to pool more than 5 samples, except in research mode," the advisory says.

The step has been taken as it has become crucial to ramp up testing in the state. "Increasing testing is critical to prevent the spread of the virus and eventually for lifting the lockdown," a senior doctor from a government hospital said.

Let's take an example as how the pooled testing works. Let's assume that there are 20 flats in an apartment each having a family with five members. If each of them were to be tested for COVID-19, a least 100 individual tests would have been required.

But, if specimens from the five members of each family were pooled, only 20 samples would have to be tested initially.

If the pooled sample is negative, it can be held that all specimens in the sample are negative and individual testing would only be required if the pooled sample tests positive. Moreover, the state government has also decided to conduct rapid Antibody Tests (Serological Tests) in areas where COVID-19 prevalence rate is significantly higher, according to a notification issued by the health department. The notification says that the rapid tests would be conducted in any hotspots/clusters/containment zones or as a surveillance tool for epidemiological purposes in such areas where the cases have not emerged so far. The tests will be done under strict medical supervision and hence districts have been tagged with various medical college hospitals.

To keep a check on rumours, the notification said that these test results will not be made public and will be reported to authorities as per ICMR's guidelines. Cooch Behar Government Medical, North Bengal Medical College, Raiganj Government Medical College and Malda Medical College would conduct rapid antibody test for the patients from all the North Bengal districts. Rampurhat Government Medical College would cater patients from Birbhum and Rampurhat HD while Burdwan Medical College would serve the patients from East and West Burdwan.

Deben Mahato Purulia Government MC would serve the people from Purulia and Bankura Medical College would cater to the people from Bankura and Bishnupur. Midnapore Medical College would cater to the districts of West Midnapore and Jhargram. School of Tropical Medicine Calcutta would serve the patients from East Midnapore and Nandigram HD. RG Kar Medical College would serve the patients from North 24-Paraganas and Basirhat HD. Murshidabad Medical College would cater two districts of Murshidabad and Nadia. Diamond Harbour Govt Medical College would serve Diamond Harbour HD while IPGMER & SSKM Hospital would cater South 24-Parganas, Kolkata, Howrah and Hooghly.

http://www.millenniumpost.in/
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The West Bengal government has decided to adopt a two-pronged approach to stop the spread of the coronavirus in the state. To ramp up COVID-19 testing across the state with limited resources, the state government is set to start pooled testing of up to five samples to cover the maximum number of people

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