Tamil Nadu

Self-test kits go unmonitored

The rapid surge in COVID-19 cases has a section of people turning to COVID-19 rapid antigen self-test kits (RAT). While the uptake of the self-test kits remains low, Tamil Nadu, which relies solely on RT-PCR tests, does not advocate the use of these kits and is yet to bring in a monitoring mechanism to track the results.

Health officials as well as chemists pointed out that the sale of the self-test kits remained low. A few doctors said they had been seeing patients who had used the self-test kits, but the State Government recommended only RT-PCR testing for COVID-19. K.K. Selvan, general secretary of the Tamil Nadu Chemists and Druggists Association, said, “Only those who are aware of such self-test kits are purchasing them online. There is not much awareness among people to get the kits from pharmacies. Now, the Central Government is asking for information of patients who purchase these self-test kits. As of now, reporting of results by users is voluntary.”

An official of the Drugs Control Department said such kits came under the Medical Devices Rules and approved by the Government of India.

Health Secretary J. Radhakrishnan said the State does not advocate self-test kits. “We have told people not to self-medicate as well as not to self-test. They need to get tested formally with a RT-PCR. They have to get tested under medical supervision, and the usage of self-test kits is not easy,” he said. A government doctor, who did not want to be named, said RAT seemed to be correlating well, but the State maintained a policy of keeping RT-PCR as the gold standard.

Self-test kits are used more than before, said Koushik Muthu Raja M., associate professor, Department of Pulmonary Medicine, Sri Ramachandra Medical Centre. “They are relatively useful. A positive test means it is a true positive. Unfortunately, a negative test doesn’t mean a true negative and can be false negatives. So, in case of a negative test in a person with symptoms it’s advised to repeat the test in the next 48 hours or go for a conventional RT-PCR, which is more reliable,” he said. “As of recently, there are no strict monitoring mechanisms for these tests. But, I think the Government is now looking at protocols and policies for reporting, monitoring and following up self-test results too,” he added.

As per the Indian Council of Medical Research’s advisory, users should download the home testing mobile app, which will provide a test result. They were advised to click a picture of the test strip after completing the test procedure with the same mobile phone, and data in the app would be centrally captured in a secure server connected with the ICMR COVID-19 testing portal. An official said that users have to upload their results. But to what extent this was being followed was questionable.

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Printable version | May 17, 2022 8:37:51 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/self-test-kits-go-unmonitored/article38275970.ece