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Hyderabad: Private labs prefer RT-PCR to Rapid antigen tests

Hyderabad: Private labs prefer RT-PCR to Rapid antigen tests
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The Health department has shifted to Rapid testing from the earlier RT-PCR method in a big way for the last two weeks, but private healthcare providers are not keen on shifting to Rapid testing.

Hyderabad: The Health department has shifted to Rapid testing from the earlier RT-PCR method in a big way for the last two weeks, but private healthcare providers are not keen on shifting to Rapid testing.

Most of them want to stick to the RT-PCR method of testing, which, they say, is the gold standard for laboratory diagnosis of Covid-19. At present, 23 private labs are conducting Covid-19 tests in Telangana, including noted hospitals and diagnostic labs but none of them is doing Rapid testing.

ICMR, which initially was not keen on Rapid tests, changed its stand in third week of June and gave its nod to states to conduct Rapid tests using kits made by SD Biosensor, South Korea based firm. States like Delhi and Telangana went by ICMR word and switched to Rapid testing in a big way. Recently, ICMR had approved Rapid antigen kits of two more firms - Mylabs from India and Belgium-based Coris Bioconcept.

The testing kits are also priced very reasonably and priced between Rs 500-Rs 700 and results can be given within 30 minutes and a few hours if testing volumes are high. Eliciting views on this subject, a co-owner of a diagnostic lab from the city stated that antigen tests can be termed as screening tests only while RT-PCR is the confirmatory test to detect the virus infection.

"Positives from antigen test, which is less sensitive, can be Covid positive but negative results can't be classified as Covid negative. They still have to undergo an RT-PCR test for confirmation. Repeating antigen and RT-PCR tests for the same individual is being avoided if we stick to only one and the best testing method," the co-owner said.

It may be noted that ICMR also said that symptomatic individuals who test negative for Covid-19 by Rapid antigen test should be definitely tested sequentially by RT-PCR to rule out infection, whereas a positive test should be considered as a true positive and does not need reconfirmation by RT-PCR test.

Private labs in the state are conducting nearly 4000 tests per day and the testing numbers are increasing every week. Freshly, samples are being sent from various districts of the state where cases have jumped up from the last two-three weeks. The time duration for RT-PCR testing process is around four to eight hours, but results may take up to a day or two to be issued because of the time taken to transport samples to labs. Private labs are charging Rs 2200 per each RT-PCR test while those opting for home collection have to pay Rs 2800 for the test. While the top private hospitals and diagnostic labs may be reluctant to offer Rapid antigen tests, chances of some other private diagnostic labs willing to do only Rapid testing cannot be ruled out as there are hundreds of players in the market who can explore this demand as a money-making opportunity.

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