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The onset of the New Year has seen Covid-19 cases spiral away unprecedentedly once again, across the world. The surge is visible and palpable even in India, where the demand for self-testing kits is rising by the days. That’s not to say that people are refraining from home collection of samples and lab testing. No, not at all! But with the super-spreader Omicron variant doing the rounds, people are finding it increasingly accessible to self-test even at the slightest of doubts of contracting the deadly virus. But are self-testing kits reliable?
The question may have been on people’s mind already, but what added more fuel to the spark was a recent Instagram post by television actor Erica Fernandez. Erica, who tested positive for Covid-19 along with her mother earlier this month, sent out a word of caution against the use of home-testing kits, via her
social media account.
“One note of advice. DO NOT rely on the home test (Coviself kit) because they are not reliable at all,” she wrote while detailing how three self-home tests showed negative. Not satisfied with the results because her cough and sore throat was becoming only worse, she went for the lab test which confirmed she was Covid-19 positive.
That brings us to the question again!
According to Dr Mangesh Tiwaskar, Honorary General Secretary, Association of Physicians of India, testing strategies need to evolve with the evolution of the pandemic itself.
“Testing remains a cornerstone of Covid-19 management along with other critical public health measures, but diversified testing strategies must be adopted. Rapid antigen self-tests, for instance, are convenient, easy-to-use, and scalable solutions, offering results in just 15 minutes,” Tiwaskar tells HealthShots.
While RT-PCR is considered the be all and end all for Covid-19 testing, the rising demand amidst the recent surge is leading to delays of 1-2 days in results.
So, one of the prime advantages of home-testing is the fact that infected individuals are identified sooner, prompting isolation and contact tracing to break the chain of transmission. In that case, if you confusing whether you have cold and flu or Covid-19, you can be a little more sure!
However, according to reports, medical experts are concerned that positive cases are going unreported. This is happening because people are not following the protocol of uploading their result on the corresponding app.
So far, the Indian Council of Medical Research has approved 12 Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) over-the-counter kits that are also available online. Of these, most require nasal swabs, while others are based on a saliva sample.
Dr Tiwaskar says, “These are of high quality, equipped with high sensitivity and specificity, and backed by significant research. Thus, such tests prove to be a reliable tool and facilitate protection, supporting India’s safe and prompt response to the current surge in cases.”
Self-testing by RAT is advised only in symptomatic individuals and immediate contacts of laboratory confirmed positive cases, as per ICMR.
The ICMR also advises:
All individuals who test positive may be considered as true positives and no repeat testing is required
All symptomatic individuals who test negative by RAT should get themselves immediately tested by RT-PCR. This is especially important as the RATs are likely to miss few positive cases presenting with a low viral load. All RAT negative symptomatic individuals may be treated as suspect Covid-19 cases and are advised to follow the home isolation protocol while awaiting the RT-PCR test result.
The self-testing kits, priced from Rs 250, mostly come with a pre-filled extraction tube, a test card, a sterile nasal swab, disposable bag and an instruction manual.
Before you get set to take the test, keep these points by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in mind:
If there is only a quality Control Line ‘C’, and no test like ‘T’, it indicates that the result is negative. If the quality Control line ‘C’is not observed, it will be invalid regardless of whether there is detection line ‘T’.
Singer-composer Vishal Dadlani recently posted a shot of his self-testing kit’s result on Instagram.
According to Dr Tiwaskar, following the instructions carefully is a key part of conducting these self-tests.
“As a next step, report the test results on the self-test designated app. This will help the person seek medical intervention on time while ensuring accurate data to help India’s current battle against Covid-19. Finally, the instructions must be followed through even for the disposal of the test kit, swab and other materials,” he adds.