COVID-19: Antigen testing helping with early detection, at par with RT-PCR, says BMC

Updated: Jul 13, 2020, 07:16 IST | Prajakta Kasale | Mumbai

Civic body has deployed the 30-minute testing process in the Malad-Dahisar belt; 340 among the 3,500 tested till Saturday found positive

A BMC health worker conducts an antigen test at Dahisar
A BMC health worker conducts an antigen test at Dahisar

In a positive development in the fight against COVID-19, the new, quicker antigen tests being done by the civic body to detect the virus are showing 99 per cent accuracy as compared to the RT-PCR tests that take much longer to give results. Of the recent tests done using this method, 340 people were found positive and added to the daily tally of reports.

The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) began using the antigen tests last week for people living between Dahisar and Malad to extend the scope of testing along with the real-time polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) tests.

BMC had procured 1 lakh antigen test kits for Rs 4.5 crore
BMC had procured 1 lakh antigen test kits for Rs 4.5 crore

While the rapid antigen tests give results within 30 minutes, there was apprehension about their accuracy. Though positive results are considered as final, negative ones cannot be relied on completely and symptomatic people are advised to go for the RT-PCR test. So far, the antigen tests are matching the accuracy of the RT-PCR method.

A BMC official said, "There are instances of false negative results in RT-PCR too. Symptomatic patients with negative results can get treatment. Negative results through both methods are not final but the antigen tests help the early detection and treatment for infected patients."

Residents of Dahisar get tested at a civic testing camp
Residents of Dahisar get tested at a civic testing camp

The BMC has conducted 3,500 antigen tests till Saturday evening and 340 people have tested positive. The test positive rate (TPR) is 9.70 per cent. "As a backup, RT-PCR tests were also conducted on symptomatic patients and the results are almost the same. The antigen test results are matching up to 99 per cent with the RT-PCR test results," said Suresh Kakani, additional municipal commissioner, adding that considering the good performance of the antigen tests, they will be used in the rest of the city too.

BMC also plans to rope in private labs to conduct testing at its testing camps through the antigen method. Until now, 3.85 lakh RT-PCR tests have been conducted in the city, with the TPR being over 24 per cent — much higher than the national average of 6.5 per cent. In other words, for every 100 people tested in Mumbai, 24 tested positive. A high TPR indicates that testing is inadequate and new chains of transmission are being ignored. As per the guidelines of the World Health Organization (WHO), the TPR should be less than five. The antigen tests increase the BMC's testing capacity. It has bought 1 lakh of these test kits for R4.5 crore.

Some of the test kits have been given to four civic-run medical colleges – KEM, LTM (Sion), Nair and Cooper hospitals.

Viral fever spreading fast in city

While the number of malaria, leptospirosis and dengue cases is under control, 294 cases of viral fever were reported in the city from July 1 to 5. There were 78 cases of malaria, two of leptospirosis and one of dengue in the same period. June saw There were 328 malaria cases in June and 163 in May. Going by the numbers and monsoon, the number is set to increase. "Even though some of the areas in the city reported more vector-borne diseases, there isn't a specific area with maximum cases. We are keeping a close watch," said Suresh Kakani, additional municipal commissioner.

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