Alternative Testing Kits

National committee suggestion ignored

Ershad Kamol | Published: 00:12, Jul 09,2020


Public suffering is increasing for the backlog of COVID-19 testing at laboratories for their sole dependency on expensive but time-consuming PCR machines while the government’s national technical advisory committee has recommended alternative testing methods.

The committee last month favoured introducing antigen testing kits, antibody testing kits and facilitating the 300 Gene Xpart machines, which, it suggested, should be installed at different hospitals and upazila health complexes, with required cartridges.

Two members of the committee told New Age on Wednesday that these kits were being used in different countries for screening COVID-19 and also for detecting antibody.

‘We suggested using antigen kits which can give good results within 20 minutes. We also recommended using antibody kits for the sero-surveillance of a person who had already been infected with COVID-19 and convalescent plasma for detecting antibody,’ said the committee member professor Iqbal Arslan.

‘We also recommended the use of the Gene Xpart at the hospital emergencies to identify COVID-19 positive cases and to separate them from the normal patients so that hospitals could not deny patients treatment in the pretext of not having done COVID-19 tests,’ said Arslan, also president of Swadhinata Chikitshak  Parishad.

Another member of the committee, virologist professor Md Nazrul Islam said that just purchasing special cartridges Gene XParts, machines used for testing drug-resistant tuberculosis, could be used for screening and confirmation of COVID-19 cases.

They said that dependency on only about 80 PCR machines operated at the 73 laboratories for testing COVID-19 in the country having a population of over 16 crore would never solve the problem.

They also said that PCR was very expensive and their testing process was also time-consuming.

Meanwhile, many people said that they were facing problems to get COVID-19 test results.

Sharing his bitter experience, Bangladesh Paribesh Andolan general secretary Sharif Jamil said that he and his family did not get test results even though he and his family members gave samples on June 15 at Habiganj General Hospital.

‘Now we think that may be the samples were missing as it happened before at different hospitals for huge backlogs at the laboratories. It is frustrating and not acceptable,’ Sharif Jamil said.

The Directorate General of Health Services assistant director Ayesha Akter said that initiatives were taken to ensure online registration for COVID-19 testing so that queues could be avoided in front of the sample collection booths.

The DGHS on Tuesday writing a letter to the health ministry recommended that antigen kits be made available for screening and antibody kits for sero-surveillance of any COVID-19 positive patient.

Gene XPart machine was not recommended as the Directorate General of Drug Administration did not approve of its use, she said.

Health minister Zahid Maleque or secretary Abdul Mannan could not be reached for comments.

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