If results come negative in the antigen test, suspected Covid-19 patients will be tested again by RT-PCR machine for confirmation
The government has begun the much-awaited antigen-based rapid testing in 10 bordering districts of the country to get the results of samples taken from suspected Covid-19 patients in a short time.
Health Minister Zahid Maleque inaugurated the testing facilities virtually on Saturday morning.
He said the antigen testing must be done in accordance with the guidelines of the World Health Organization (WHO).
"If results of individuals with Covid-19 symptoms come negative in the antigen test, they will be tested again by the RT-PCR machine for confirmation," he said.
The Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) selected the 10 districts -- Panchagarh, Gaibandha, Joypurhat, Patuakhali, Meherpur, Munshiganj, Brahmanbaria, Jessore, Madaripur, and Sylhet -- where the number of recent Covid-19 cases is higher.
The health minister said the government is continuing its effort to get vaccines for countrymen in time.
Meanwhile, people must give importance to wear masks as a social safety vaccine and follow health guidelines, he added.
DGHS Additional Director General (Planning and Development) Meerjady Sabrina Flora said a suspected patient has to do the test within six to seven days of the onset of symptoms.
The antigen testing will take some 20 to 30 minutes to give the results, she said, adding that the government has primarily arranged the test for free.
Meanwhile, the Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research (IEDCR) has provided necessary training to the required manpower of the 10 districts.
The process of starting rapid (antigen and antibody) tests in the country gained momentum when the DGHS expressed its support for the introduction of antibody and antigen tests in the country in June.
In late August, the health minister announced the government's decision to approve antigen tests, which turned into reality on September 21.
In October, the government announced that it was buying 200,000 antigen test kits. At the same time, the DGHS, through the IEDCR, tested several antigen kits. Finally, with kits in hand, the DGHS has started the tests.
When asked, Habibur Rahman, director of Management Information System (MIS) at the DGHS, said no policy has yet been formulated for the antigen test.
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Initially, the tests will be arranged in the districts where there is no opportunity for testing through RT-PCR machines, he added.
Rapid antigen tests are commonly used in the diagnosis of respiratory pathogens, including influenza viruses and respiratory syncytial virus, according to the 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.
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 witnessed 35 more deaths from Covid-19 in the last 24 hours until Saturday morning, taking the number of total fatalities to 6,807.
Also, 1,888 new cases were confirmed during the period, bringing the caseload to 475,879.
Bangladesh is the 26th worst-affected country in the world considering the number of Coronavirus cases, according to Johns Hopkins University (JHU) data.