Test results delayed, labs struggle with sample load

Updated on Apr 01, 2020 06:22 AM IST

The 130 functional government laboratories across India have tested 42,788 samples so far, of which 4,346 were tested on Monday alone.

All laboratories performing Covid-19 tests have a capacity of conducting 13,000 tests per day. The 49 private chains have around 16,000 collection centres.(Pratham Gokhale/HT file photo)
All laboratories performing Covid-19 tests have a capacity of conducting 13,000 tests per day. The 49 private chains have around 16,000 collection centres.(Pratham Gokhale/HT file photo)
Hindustan Times, New Delhi | By

India may claim to be testing only at about 36% of its capacity, but government laboratories testing for the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) seem to be already burdened by the sample load, with many hospitals saying that the lag time for receiving test results has increased to three days.

“The time that it takes for a lab to return test results has definitely gone up; earlier the results would be back the next day but now it’s been three days and we haven’t received the reports yet,” a senior administrator at a prominent private hospital in Delhi said on condition of anonymity.

The 130 functional government laboratories across India have tested 42,788 samples so far, of which 4,346 were tested on Monday alone. Of the 49 private labs approved for testing, 399 tests were conducted on Monday, and in total these chains have done about 14,00 tests since they were allowed to test, starting on March 21.

“Most of our laboratories are quick to send out results; it was taking time earlier when National Institute of Virology was the main lab doing confirmatory tests but things have improved now. If any particular lab is taking time then it should be seen as an isolated case, not a norm,” said Dr Raman R Gangakhedkar, chief of the epidemiology division at the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).

All laboratories performing Covid-19 tests have a capacity of conducting 13,000 tests per day. The 49 private chains have around 16,000 collection centres.

The government is also procuring more testing kits, including rapid test kits from Singapore that are expected to arrive by this weekend (April 5).

Some states such as Kerala have already procured the rapid testing kits that have been validated by the ICMR to begin surveillance to know the extent of disease spread within the state.

The government has also placed an order for more test kits, including rapid kits, also known as point-of-care kits. An expression of interest was initially sent out by the ICMR for one million antibody kits, which later had to be revised to 500,000 kits because of a shortage in supply world over.

However, rapid kits are not the best way to diagnose a disease -- they track antibodies, which means they can only diagnose a person if antibodies are present in his system (this is usually well after the infection sets in). This also means they will identify people who have been infected in the past -- because the antibodies tend to remain in the system.

“These kits are meant mainly for surveillance or research purposes in epidemiological studies. For diagnostic purposes PCR-based tests are preferred,” said Dr Gangakhedkar. PCR stands for polymerase chain reaction

Apart from the lag time in laboratory testing results, the ministry is also taking time in updating the daily tally of cases and deaths on its dashboard.

“I don’t think there is any lag time as we usually update our data on a daily basis. If in the past sometimes there has been some delay in updating the data, it is because we have to independently verify every single case with their actual address to assign the state and begin contact tracing. At times, the address on the passport is different from where the person lives, and we have to be accurate” says Lav Agarwal, joint secretary, Union health ministry.

The reporting of data also entails filling up of different forms in details and that usually takes long, especially now that the positive cases are increasing. “Despite the rising numbers, our data entry operates are working very hard to ensure all details are documented as early as possible, and with precision,” added Agarwal.

Get Latest India Newsalong with Latest Newsand Top Headlinesfrom India and around the world.
SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Rhythma Kaul works as an assistant editor at Hindustan Times. She covers health and related topics, including ministry of health and family welfare, government of India.

SHARE
Story Saved
OPEN APP
×
Saved Articles
Following
My Reads
My Offers
Sign out
New Delhi 0C
Saturday, January 28, 2023
Start 15 Days Free Trial Subscribe Now
Register Free and get Exciting Deals