First batch yet to arrive; ICMR invites bids for another 45L antibody test kits
New Delhi: As India's efforts to ramp up testing numbers continue to be marred by a lack of sufficient test kits, the Indian Council of Medical Research has invited quotations for the supply of 45 lakh antibody COVID-19 Rapid test kits along with 25 lakh RT-PCR test kits and other ancillary materials required for COVID-19 testing in the country. The ICMR has also invited bids for the supply of 52.25 lakh VTM (Viral Transmission Media) and 30 lakh RNA Extraction kits.
The tender was issued by the ICMR on the day Tamil Nadu Chief Secretary K Shanmugam disclosed at a press conference that India's first batch of antibody test kits had been diverted to the United States of America from China. Indian authorities had decided to start using Antibody Test Kits (Serological tests) at the end of March to increase its diagnostic efforts in the battle against COVID-19.
The ICMR had initially issued a tender for the supply of 10 lakh of these Serological kits but had quickly revised the requirement to 5 lakh after suppliers had cited the lockdown and the current crisis for manufacturing and distribution hitches.
Officials here had said that the order for the 5 lakh test kits was placed on March 28, the first 2.5 lakh of which was supposed to be delivered on April 9. However, government officials said on Saturday that the delivery was yet to be received in India and that it was expected to arrive in two to three days.
Interestingly, the government's requirement for more Antibody test kits than RT-PCR test kits does not seem to be in line with its own testing strategy. When the ICMR had decided to use Antibody Test kits, they had prescribed guidelines, according to which these tests were to be conducted in "hotspot" areas or clusters - where widespread testing of individuals is necessary for containment.
However, the ICMR acknowledged that Antibody tests would not be able to diagnose a patient for COVID-19 and would just help authorities streamline the requirement for conducting RT-PCR tests - which would be able to confirm a SARS-CoV-2 infection.
However, the excess requirement for Antibody test kits can be explained by ICMR's efforts to study the novel Coronavirus and come up with a vaccine. These Serological test kits look for antibodies that can fight COVID-19. As a result, these kits will help researchers to get closer to cures and a
possible vaccine against the virus.