The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) on Saturday issued an advisory to start rapid antibody based blood tests for COVID-19 in areas reporting clusters and in large migration gatherings or evacuee centres.
The decision for recommending these tests was taken at an emergency meeting of the National Task Force held recently.
The move comes in the wake of the country reporting 3072 COVID-19 cases including 75 deaths so far.The results of antibody tests similar to blood tests are available in 15-30 minutes.
"Cases of influenza-like illness to be monitored in health facilities. Any surge in cases to be monitored and brought to the notice of surveillance officer/CMO for additional investigation," the advisory said.
As a matter of abundant precautions, all symptomatic persons with influenza-like illness should be advised home quarantine for 14 days. At facility level, symptomatic individuals with influenza-like illness to be tested using rapid antibody tests, the apex health research body said in its advisory.
If antibody test comes out negative, then if warranted, it can be confirmed by real-time RT-PCR using throat/nasal swab.
At present, the government uses the RT-PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests to detect the coronavirus from samples of throat or nasal swab of people with symptoms or high-risk individuals who might have come in contact with a positive patient.
RT-PCR negative indicates the likelihood of a non-COVID-19 influenza-like illness while RT-PCR positive means it is a confirmed case and action as per protocol should be initiated for isolation, treatment and contact tracing, the advisory stated.
If the antibody test comes out to be positive, there has to be a clinical assessment and treatment in hospital or isolation as per protocol.
Action as per protocol should be initiated for contact tracing.
"If symptoms worsen, refer to designated COVID-19 hospitals. When home quarantine is not feasible, consider facility-based quarantine," the advisory stated.
It also listed some general guidelines according to which healthcare workers doing the rapid antibody test should use gloves, mask, and head covers.
Healthcare workers collecting throat/nasal swab should follow standard national infection control guidelines, it said.
The rapid antibody tests approved by US-FDA/CE-IVD or non-CE-IVD validated by ICMR-NIV with marketing approval by DCGI should be used.
In order to ensure that all such cases are monitored and necessary action is initiated with respect to infectious disease management, details of all test results shall be uploaded in ICMR portal.
"All such organisations are duty bound to register themselves to ICMR portal and upload the data in real-time. Failure to do so, they will be held liable to action under Disaster Management Act, 2005," the advisory stated.