Serpentine queues outside Covid-19 testing centres are a common sight across India. The limited number of approved testing facilities generates heavy workload for lab technicians. Reports of delayed test results leading to fatalities have emerged from many parts of the country.
All this is set to change with the introduction of rapid self testing kits in the country. The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has approved India’s first Covid-19 self-testing kit for home use.
Mylab Discovery Solutions’ CoviSelf, a rapid antigen test for Covid-19 has been approved as part of the Government’s strategy to reduce the workload of medicos and healthcare workers.
Earlier this month, ICMR had advised states to increase dependence on rapid antigen tests and recommended that they do away with the requirement of negative RT-PCR tests for inter-state travel.
A single unit of CoviSelf can be purchased for ₹250 without a prescription from local pharmacies and online channel partners. The testing will be monitored using Mylab’s mobile phone application, through which users are advised to click a picture of the test strip after completing the test procedure.
India is a late entrant to the club of countries which has already approved self testing kits. USA, UK and many European countries have been using such kits from November 2020. These kits are useful to detect runaway infection and early detection in places where the infection rate is high.
Experts have pointed out that the kits can show false negatives in case of low or mild infection considering their less sensitive nature when compared to lab-based RT-PCR tests. They state that the results would be more accurate in case where the patients carry a high viral load.
Using the Kit
As per the directive of the ICMR, the test kit should only be used by those who have COVID-19 symptoms or have come in contact with laboratory-confirmed positive cases.
For self testing, a person has to insert the nasal swab provided in the kit in both the nostrils up to 2 to 4 cm or until resistance is met. After rolling the swab 4-5 times in both nostrils, it should be immersed in the pre-filled tube.
The second stage of self testing requires a person to pour two drops of liquid from the tube on the testing card. Any result taking more than 20 minutes to appear should be considered invalid by users.
To read the test results, a person has to check the various levels marked on the test card. If the bar shows up only at the control section (C), it indicates that the result is negative. If the bar appears on both the control section and test (T) section, the person is suspected to be Covid positive.
Concerns regarding data
To use the Coviself kit, a patient to register her personal data in the app provided by the company. The patient is required to click a picture of the test strip and upload it using the same mobile phone which has been used for downloading the app and user registration.
The app will capture the test result which is connected with the ICMR COVID-19 testing portal, where all data will be eventually stored. This server based storage of medical data has cast a shadow of doubt over the CoviSelf kit.
The Government which aims to make to people self sufficient in COVID testing should ensure that the use of personal data for rapid response will not lead to the infringement of fundamental human rights and personal freedom.
Times of India
BBC Indian Express