What kind of challenges you see in testing the masses, particularly in the second wave?
Testing remains the cornerstone of medical response to any disease and to any pandemic in particular. Many new tests are now available in the market but unfortunately, we still don’t fully consider some critical issues around test availability, test characteristics, and—importantly—test strategy.
In a pandemic like Covid 19- four big challenges that we must address are awareness, affordability, accuracy and speed.
Lot of work has been done by the government to create awareness and ensure that the test remains affordable for population at large. With the number of cases increasing everyday, it’s time to rethink on how can we increase the testing speed without compromising on the accuracy of the result. There are news that with the increasing pressure on the labs, it is taking 2-3 days for them to report a test result. It is now time for us to evaluate other testing methodologies, like going for Covid Antigen test based on Enhanced Chemiluminescence Technology which has got comparable accuracy to RT-PCR but can provide results at much faster speed.
In your opinion should testing be taken up in a large scale or selectively in pocket which are vulnerable?
State governments and health officials should develop strategies for different types of tests. Large number of SARS-CoV-2 infections are mild or asymptomatic in nature and may remain undetected by the surveillance system, especially with the mutations in the virus. Therefore, population-based sero-surveys are considered as a valuable tool in estimating the proportion of the population previously infected with SARS-CoV2- Various state governments have done sero surveys, that can help the government decide their testing strategies.
At a government level sero-surveys are critical to understand and monitor the trend in the prevalence of the Covid-19 virus; at an individual level we must get ourselves checked for the infection at the earliest so that timely treatment can happen.
There are been lots of debate on testing methodology and authorities continue to experiment with new options, You views
This is a virus that the scientific community is still trying to understand. I strongly believe that just like justice delayed is justice denied, in diagnostics how much accurate the results are is key, if it’s not given/acted upon by the clinician it can lead to fatal implications. We know that though rapid tests are fast, its accuracy is debatable while RT-PCR technology is good, its takes much longer to get the results. Today when test supply lags demand and there are some specific challenges with respect to the RT- PCR like logistical and shipping challenges.
I believe that what we need is mass testing by a technology which has very good sensitivity and specificity, with a higher throughput- so that the clinicians and the patients can get their results at the earliest. The clinicians can act on it soon without worrying about the accuracy of the results.
There is lot of debate going on the efficacy and accuracy of diagnostic tests . In your opinion which one is ideal for here in India and why?
We are all aware of the challenges that many of the countries faced with respect to the accuracy of the Rapid test. There is no doubt that between the two, RT-PCR is a better option but just like “Justice delayed is justice denied,” i would say that delayed result however accurate, would not be of any value to the patients if not reported on time. This is where VITROS SARS-CoV-2 Antigen Test becomes very useful. Unlike RT- PCR which requires lot of paraphernalia, VITROS SARS-CoV-2 Antigen is an easy to use test which can be done on an automated platform with a comparable accuracy to that of RT-PCR .
Do you think that Indian labs are equipped technologically and trained manpower to deal with the challenge of testing for Covid-19 especially hinterland & upcountry?
We have world class laboratories in India and I have no doubts that we have the skills and knowledge to address this unprecedented challenge. Ortho Clinical Diagnostics has huge installation base across India and our instruments can deliver more than a million tests results a day !