KATHMANDU, April 9: Despite the World Health Organization (WHO) questioning the Rapid Diagnostic Test (RDT) kits as unreliable for detecting COVID-19, the government has started their trial use in two districts of Sudur Paschim Province.
A team deployed from the Ministry of Health and Population has collected 198 samples from quarantine centers in Kailali and Kanchanpur districts and brought the samples to Kathmandu for testing them using both the RDT and Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) methods.
The ministry has decided to compare the results from both the tests to evaluate whether the RDT test results are accurate. “We have decided to use both the testing methods in the first phase to check the reliability of the RDT kits. If the results are contradictory we won't use RDT method for further tests,” said Dr. Sameer Adhikari, deputy spokesperson at the ministry.
The comparative results from RDT and PCR tests of the collected samples are expected to arrive by Saturday helping the government to ascertain the accuracy of the RDT kits, recently purchased from China.
According to experts RDT kits can just measure the antibodies which are part of the body's immune system and do not trace the virus in recently infected persons or in those have already developed internal immunity to fight the virus.
Without waiting for the trial results of RDT tests, the ministry has asked its district offices to use the RDT kits from Thursday. A health official at Dhangadhi said the ministry has provided RDT kits for screening of possible infected people at the local level. “We have been asked to collect swabs from the persons who tested positive for COVID-19 by RDT method,” said the official requesting anonymity.
The ministry has circulated the working procedure for using the RDT kits asking the health professionals to collect swabs only from those who tested positive for COVID-19 by RDT method.
“We have asked doctors to test those who tested positive for COVID-19 from PCR method also using RDT method for confirmation,” said Ministry Spokesperson Dr Bikash Devkota.
As part of its attempt to intensify tests for COVID-19, the ministry has collected 802 swabs samples Achham, Jumla and Surkhet districts and brought them to Kathmandu for PCR test, according to the ministry. Similarly separate teams were mobilized in Dipayal to collect up to 300 swab samples from the area.
“We have expedited the sample collection process mainly in the far western region of the country and the criteria for the tests have also been expanded,” Dr Devkota said.
So far, the National Public Health Laboratory in Teku has tested 1965 samples while other 401 samples have been tested from various laboratories outside the capital taking the total number of samples tested to 2,366. The government has confirmed nine COVID-19 positive cases so far in the country including one who is recovered.