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India prepares for surge in testing as ICMR invites bids for 10 lakh antibody test kits

India prepares for surge in testing as ICMR invites bids for 10 lakh antibody test kits

New Delhi: Indian authorities have finally allowed for Antibody Testing in their battle against COVID-19, as the Indian Council of Medical Research on Wednesday night invited quotations for 10,00,000 Antibody (Serological) Kits approved by the USFDA, European CE or ICMR-NIV in an effort to ramp up testing for the novel Coronavirus. As of Wednesday night, India had a total of over 600 positive cases for COVID-19.

While testing data so far from the ICMR has shown that India is testing much less number of samples than many other countries dealing with the crisis. According to a reading of data from the last week, Indian authorities have been testing around 1,000 to 2,000 samples per 24 hours, with a total rate of positive cases above 2.4 per cent out of the total number of individuals being tested.

The invitation for the Antibody test kits shows that the ICMR is preparing for a massive increase in testing and even considering cheaper and alternative methods for diagnosing people with COVID-19. While Indian health authorities have been using test kits from Germany and ones provided by the World Health Organisation, these are RT-PCR kits (Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction). This test can identify the RNA of the SARS-CoV-2 in a human sample by introducing reverse transcriptase, an enzyme that will highlight the viral RNA.

However, Antibody tests do not test for the novel Coronavirus, they test for antibodies that can fight SARS-CoV-2. These tests also known as Serological tests look for antibodies in a human sample to see whether the person's immune system has ever fought the virus. If the body has had the virus at any point or still has it, the test will identify the antibody fighting it, which can diagnose COVID-19 albeit with much less accuracy than an RT-PCR kit. Regardless, the antibody tests will go a long way in the study of how humans can build immunity to this novel strain of the Coronavirus.

The ICMR has invited quotations, highlighting the urgency for the kits, saying that bidders must send a quote for the test kits along with how many tests one kit will be able to perform. In addition, the ICMR said that the manufacturer must be able to ensure supply in six major cities: Dibrugarh, Mumbai, Chennai, Delhi, Bhopal and Hyderabad and that no other condition of the supplier or manufacturer will be entertained in light of the ongoing public health crisis.

Another sign of authorities preparing for a higher number of tests is that the ICMR has also invited quotations for 7,00,000 RNA extraction kits, which are a key component of the RT-PCR test kit for COVID-19. In the RT-PCR test, the human sample is checked for the presence of viral RNA and these extraction kits are used to isolate the RNA molecule from other cells and materials in the human samples.

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