Health department to hire a private firm for second round of serological surveyUpdated: Jul 14, 2020 00:09 IST
The district health department on Monday said it is in the process of hiring a private health company to conduct the second round of serological survey with 2,000 antibody kits for studying the prevalence of coronavirus disease (Covid-19) infection in the city. Health officials said that they need additional manpower to conduct the survey. As such, a memorandum of understanding (MoU) is likely to be signed between the district health department and Hindustan Wellness — a health consultant company — to conduct the coronavirus antibody test.
Dr Virender Yadav, chief medical officer (CMO), Gurugram, said that with the expansion of the serological survey to 2,000 people in the second round, the plan is to get assistance in terms of manpower and machinery. “Members of the health department staff are already deployed to conduct designated duties, such as conducting the Reverse Transcription – Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) tests, the antigen tests and contact tracing. Currently, more than 60 lab technicians are involved in taking samples and conducting tests. To conduct a serological survey, an MoU will be signed with a private company after approval from the district administration.”
According to Yadav, the plan is to conduct more than 400 people for the survey in a month. “To cover 2,000 people, the survey will take nearly four to five months to be completed,” said Yadav.
A serological survey is a tool used by epidemiologists to study the prevalence of an infection within a community. The district health department conducted the first round of serological survey on June 24 at the CMO office in the old Civil Hospital. In the first round of the survey, 460 people were supposed to be covered. However, the health department has managed to draw 361 blood samples till now.
Jai Prakash Sharma, district surveillance officer, said, “In the first round, 361 blood samples have been tested for coronavirus antibody, of which 49 samples have tested positive for the virus. The remaining 99 tests of the first round will be conducted from Tuesday onwards.”
Officials of the health department said the second round of serological survey will cover people from different backgrounds as per the guidelines of the Indian Council Medical Research (ICMR). The ICMR guidelines recommend people from 20 categories to be included in a serological survey. These include immunocompromised patients, healthcare workers, industrial workers, aviation staff, taxi and auto drivers, prisoners, staff members of urban local bodies (ULBs) and persons working with banks, post offices, courier agencies and telecom companies. A few vulnerable sections of the population, such as preoperative patients, pregnant women and elderly people are also included in the survey.
Based on the guidelines, the population strata that need to be covered for the survey will be identified by the health department. Yadav said, “The plan regarding the population groups to be covered and the places where the testing camps are to be organised is being prepared by the health department. Even, consumables such as personal protective kits (PPEs) and antibody kits will be provided by us.” He added that the plan will be shared as soon as the MoU is signed after necessary permissions are obtained.
The survey will involve the use of an improved enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (Elisa)-based antibody kit. For the test, five millilitres of blood will be collected, which will then be separated into blood and plasma. The plasma will be used to detect the antibodies developed against the SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19. The IgG Elisa test has been approved by the ICMR because of its high sensitivity and specificity.
Al least 50% of the kits will be used on patients, who have been tested positive within the last two weeks. The remaining kits will be used on those who have no history of contracting the Covid-19 infection. Studies show that the IgG (immunoglobulin G) antibodies typically start appearing after two weeks of the onset of infection. Even if patients have recovered, the antibodies can last for several months, thereby enabling health workers to detect the number of unreported cases.
A representative from Hindustan Wellness said he will not be able to comment on the matter yet as the MoU is yet to be signed and is awaiting a nod from the district administration.