ICMR asks states to not use antibody China test kits

ICMR asks states to stop rapid antibody tests by these two Chinese companies

Representative image/AFP Photo

The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) on Monday asked states to stop using rapid antibody test kits for coronavirus bought from two Chinese companies after field validation showed a wide variation in results.

The decision came on a day when India reported an increase of 1,463 cases, taking the total number of confirmed cases to 28,380. The death toll due to the highly contagious respiratory illness rose to 886, a spike of 60 since Sunday.

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The ICMR, the apex body for medical research, issued a fresh advisory to states asking them to return the test kits so that they could be sent back to their suppliers.

The antibody tests were introduced by the ICMR amid pressure from state governments to ramp up testing, but with clear instructions for their use in surveillance and epidemiological purposes and not for diagnosing the disease.

The decision to junk the kits supplied by two Chinese companies — Guangzhou Wondfo Biotech and Zhuhai Livzon Diagnostics — came amid doubts raised on the efficacy of rapid antibody tests globally.

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In an advisory to chief secretaries of states and union territories, the ICMR said it had evaluated the kits in field conditions. “The results have shown wide variation in their sensitivity, despite early promise of good performance for surveillance purposes,” it said.

“In view of this, states are advised to stop using these kits procured from the above-mentioned companies and return them to be sent back to the suppliers,” it said.

Earlier this month, the ICMR had ordered five lakh kits and despatched them to several states for testing in hotspot areas.

The decision to use rapid antibody tests was taken to speed up testing as the “gold standard” RT-PCR tests were slow and time-consuming.

Within days of deploying the tests, states such as Rajasthan complained about their efficacy, prompting the ICMR to suspend the tests, pending field validation.