Mumbai civic body increases RT-PCR tests as doubts raised over accuracy of antigen tests

Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) authorities have decided to scale up its real-time polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test for the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) outbreak as rapid antigen detection (RAD) test has proved to be less accurate.

RT-PCR test will be aggressively conducted in high-rise buildings, slum clusters and hospitals within the jurisdictions of the civic body.

Around 70% of the daily tests conducted in Mumbai are being done through the RT-PCR technique.

RAD test is less preferred because of its unreliability.

However, the BMC authorities recently procured an additional one lakh RAD test kits after they ran out of stock.

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RAD tests are conducted on swabbed nasal samples that detect antigens that are found in the virus, Sars-Cov-2, which causes Covid-19.

Though the test results are available in less than 30 minutes, they are less sensitive, as compared to the RT-PCR technique.

According to the guidelines issued by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) under the Union Ministry of Health & Family Welfare (MoH&FW), every positive report from RAD test will be treated as “true positive”, while negative samples will have to be compulsorily retested by using the RT-PCR technique.

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Civic officials said that RAD tests were introduced to balance out the inadequate supply of RT-PCR kits in the market and they are equally effective when their use is focused.

Suresh Kakani, additional municipal commissioner, BMC, said, “We are scaling up the RT-PCR tests in high-rise buildings and slum clusters as our daily Covid-19 tests have crossed the 15, 000 mark. However, the RAD tests will be more focused. We will conduct RAD tests on civic workers, people living in containment zones and healthcare staff.”

Mumbai crossed the 10-lakh mark of Covid-19 tests on Sunday. The total tally stands at 10.04 lakh and the positivity rate is 18.13%, which had risen to 23% in July.

So far, the city has reported 1.82 lakh Covid-19 cases.

Around 1.55 lakh RAD tests were conducted since the technique was introduced in July.

BMC data showed 10, 706 people have tested Covid-19 positive after undergoing RAD tests.

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