Covid-19: Bangladesh launches antigen tests in 10 districts

Bangladesh on Saturday launched antigen-based rapid testing in districts for detecting Covid-19.

Health Minister Zahid Maleque inaugurated the antigen testing through a videoconference with 10 districts in the morning.

The 10 districts are Gaibandha, Munshiganj, Panchagarh, Madaripur, Brahmanbaria, Jashore, Meherpur, Sylhet, Joypurhat and Patuakhali districts.

He said there is no PCR testing facility in the country’s districts due to lack of bio-safety labs. “Now, it’ll be possible to test more samples through antigen tests and the results will be available soon.”

“Testing is important to prevent the spread of Covid-19. The antigen test is being carried out as per WHO guideline,” he added.

UNB Patuakhali correspondent reports: the antigen test of Covid-19 has started at Patuakhali 250-bed hospital in the morning.

The results will be known within 15-20 minutes after the test, said Patuakhali Civil Surgeon Dr Jahangir Alam Shipon.

Already, three doctors have been given training to start the test and about 500 test kits arrived in the country on Thursday, he said.

Dr Abdul Motin of Patuakhali 250-bed hospital, said a medical team was formed to conduct the test. Till noon, three people gave their samples and all of them tested negative, he said.

Govt approves antigen test

On September 21, the government allowed antigen-based rapid testing for Covid-19 at hospitals and health institutes across Bangladesh. The Ministry of Health made the announcement after issuing a circular on September 17 in this regard.

Antigen-based testing has been permitted at all government hospitals, district hospitals, government PCR labs and all health institutes as per the proposal of the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) and the interim guideline of the World Health Organization, according to the circular.

On July 5, the DGHS wrote to the Health Ministry to allow antigen-based Covid-19 testing. The National Technical Advisory Committee on Covid-19 also recommended it several times.

According to the DGHS proposal, antigen tests would be carried out on patients with symptoms. If anyone is found positive, the patient would be isolated.

But if anyone is found negative in the antigen tests, they would be tested again by RT-PCR or GeneXpert machine for confirmation.

Antigen-based tests

Rapid antigen tests are commonly used in the diagnosis of respiratory pathogens, including influenza viruses and respiratory syncytial virus, according to US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Antigen tests are immunoassays that detect the presence of a specific viral antigen, which implies current viral infection. They are relatively inexpensive and can be used at the point-of-care. Devices used in the tests can return results in about 15 minutes.

Antigen tests for SARS-CoV-2 are generally less sensitive than viral tests that detect nucleic acid using reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR).

Rapid antigen tests perform best when the person is tested in the early stages of infection with SARS-CoV-2 when viral load is generally highest, CDC says.

There are limited data to guide the use of rapid antigen tests as screening tests on asymptomatic persons to detect or exclude Covid-19, or to determine whether a previously confirmed case is still infectious, CDC notes.

Covid-19 situation in Bangladesh

Bangladesh saw the deaths of 20 more men and four women from Covid-19 in the last 24 hours until early Friday.

Also, 2,252 new cases were confirmed during the period, bringing the caseload to 473,991. The fatality number reached 6,772 and the death rate stood at 1.43%, said the DGHS.

Bangladesh is the 26th worst-affected country in the world considering the number of Coronavirus cases, according to Johns Hopkins University (JHU) data.

source: UNB