India to produce COVID-19 antibody test kits by May end: Health Minister Harsh Vardhan


India is looking to deploy rapid test kits to speed up Covid-19 screening, amid a spike in cases and growing coronavirus hotspots in the country. At first, the antibody test will confirm if the person has been previously infected by the virus or not, as a move that will help understand the epidemiology of Covid-19 in the country.


The test, called as a serological test, looks for antibodies in the blood, it is different from the current diagnostic tests.


“This is not a confirmatory test. The serological test is for the purpose of surveillance to generate data and understand whether people got exposed to the virus,” said Randeep Guleria, chairman of the high-level expert committee formed to review the testing strategy for Covid-19 by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).


The ICMR invited bids for the antibody kit for diagnosis of Covid-19.


While tests on random samples done by ICMR so far suggest there is no community transmission yet in India, experts said the serological tests will further allow researchers to trace and identify people and better understand how the virus behaves.


“This could be used on a mass scale in the community as a specific test for Covid-19 at a very affordable price,” said Harsh Mahajan, founder of Mahajan Imaging Centre.


On the condition of anonymity an ICMR official said, “The kits will be used after due checks, adding they’d be used to narrow down search results when dealing with clusters where the number of people infected by the virus may be higher. Negative samples would be tested again after 10 days, the person said. More than 150 firms are willing to offer test kits to India.”


More than 150 firms are willing to offer test kits to India, the official said. Besides, National Institute of Virology in Pune has given approval to seven companies that don’t have certification from the U.S. FDA or CE-IVD, according to ICMR.