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Haryana

Private labs seek nod to start antigen and antibody testing

July 15, 2020 06:50 AM

COURTESY HT JULY 15

Private labs seek nod to start antigen and antibody testing
COVID-19 : Labs lay out rates ranging from ₹600 to ₹1,450; letter sent to state government for approval

Health workers collect a sample for testing at the community centre in Sector-10A. PARVEEN KUMAR/HT
Archana Mishra

archana.mishra@hindustantimes.com

Gurugram : After Delhi, where private labs have been allowed to conduct antigen tests in addition to RT-PCR tests, the Gurugram health department is considering to adopt a similar approach to further ramp up Covid-19 testing capacity in the city.

Four private labs have sought permission to carry out serology testing for Covid-19, including both antibody and antigen tests. Each of these labs have also shared their proposed rates for conducting the tests, ranging from ₹600 to ₹1,450 for each sample.

“A letter has been sent to the state health department regarding the proposed rates for Covid-19 antigen and antibody tests. It is important to put a price cap if private labs and hospitals are allowed to carry such tests. Like Delhi, hospitals in the city that are coordinating with the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR)-approved laboratories too can start with testing once the state health department approves the proposed price packages,” said Dr Virender Yadav, chief medical officer (CMO).

PROPOSED RATES

According to officials of the district health department, the proposed rates for antibody tests range between ₹600 and ₹1,450 per sample. The same for antigen test range between ₹500 and ₹950 per sample. Only one of the four labs has proposed ₹4,500 for the tests — the highest so far. In their letter to the state health department, the district health officials have suggested a price cap of ₹1,000 for an IgG antibody Elisa test and ₹800 for an antigen test.

Currently, both the tests are being conducted by the officials of the district health department. While antigen tests are being conducted in large outbreak areas of the city, antibodies tests are being conducted as a part of an ongoing serological survey. The first round of serological survey started in June 24. A plan for the second round is currently being worked out by the district health department. The city, on an average, is conducting around 2,000 tests per day.

The antigen tests look for a specific protein associated with the SARS-CoV-2 virus — the pathogen that causes Covid-19. In the antibody test, on the other hand, blood samples are collected to check for antibodies which appear after a person has been infected with coronavirus and stays in the body for months. This test is typically conducted to find out unreported cases of Covid-19.

SOP FOR PRIVATE LABS

A senior health department official, privy to the matter, confirmed that the department has received requests from four private labs in the city to carry out the tests.“But we first need to develop a set of standard operating procedures (SOPs) to ensure that the ICMR guidelines are followed by private labs,” said the official, on condition of anonymity.

Although the private labs refused to comment on the matter, saying that they are awaiting approval from the state government, a representative from one of the four labs said a few decisions have to be taken by the government before it can approve the labs to carry out the tests.

The ICMR has advised states to use antigen kits for detection of the virus in hot spots and containment zones. As per the guidelines, symptomatic people with influenza-like illness, asymptomatic patients who are high-risk contacts of confirmed cases, people with co-morbidities, and high-risk patients who are either hospitalised or seeking hospitalisation are to be given importance for testing. The SOP to be prepared the health department will have to take into account the ICMR guidelines before an approval can be granted.

In Delhi, hospitals are currently allowed to conduct antigen tests on the similar lines as the RT-PCR tests. A prescription from the registered doctor is mandatory along with an ICMR-form that needs to be filled in by the doctor.

In case if a person does not have a prescription, he or she can visit the flu clinic set up by the hospital. A doctor will carry out the necessary investigation before prescribing a test. Delhi government has fixed the antigen test cost at around ₹1,000 per test, lower than the RT-PCR, which costs around ₹2,400.

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