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Government’s decision to increase covid-19 testing has given a boost to medical technology and diagnostic companies. With the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) aiming to increase country’s covid-19 testing capacity to 45 lakh per day by the end of June from present around 20 lakh tests each day, several companies are coming up rapid antigen tests ranging from self-covid tests and field tests.

While initially during the pandemic, the government emphasized on more RTPCR tests—the gold standard for detecting covid--, now the rapid antigen tests have again come into focus. Roche Diagnostics on Thursday that it has launched a high-throughput SARS-CoV-2 antigen test as an aid in the diagnosis of coronavirus infections. The laboratory based Elecsys SARS-CoV-2 Antigen test had earlier received CE mark has recently obtained the import license from Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO). The automated lab-based antigen test could be useful in diagnosing symptomatic patients and exposed asymptomatic individuals. In addition, it will facilitate frequent screening of individuals in high-risk settings.

“Robust diagnostic testing capacity is the bedrock to manage COVID-19 and contain community spread. With >2000 instrument installations across India, the high accuracy, high-throughput laboratory antigen test will give a vital boost to our testing capabilities supporting the Indian healthcare system in the diagnosis of SARS-CoV-2 infections," said Narendra Varde, Managing Director, Roche Diagnostics India and Neighboring Markets.

Dr Balram Bhargava, Director General ICMR earlier in May said that for ramping up capacity the ICMR has validated more than 105 RAT companies and approved 41 of them and 31 of them are indigenous. Out of the 45 lakh tests, 18 lakhs will be RT-PCR, while 27 lakh will be Rapid Antigen Tests, Bhargava had said adding that the states have placed the order and they are rapidly enhancing their testing capacity.

Gujarat based global medtech company Meril on Thursday announced its self-use Rapid Antigen Test for Covid-19, CoviFind, has received approval from the ICMR. This indigenously researched and developed test can detect the SARS-CoV-2 virus reliably in infectious individuals and can therefore be used for testing symptomatic individuals and immediate contacts of confirmed coronavirus cases as specified by recent ICMR guidelines. Meril’s home-use rapid antigen tests will expand access to Covid-19 testing, while also helping the nation meet the demand for increased and frequent screening to curb the spread of Covid-19. The provision of high-quality rapid antigen testing will also enable access to screening in previously out-of-reach or under-equipped areas, the company said.

“By making reliable rapid antigen testing available to all through a convenient format, Meril’s CoviFind test will facilitate early detection, isolation, treatment and contact tracing. This will limit the spread of infections, contributing to the nation’s ongoing efforts to quell the second wave of the pandemic," Sanjeev Bhatt, Sr. Vice President, Corporate Strategy, Meril, said.

An antigen test detects proteins which are structural or functional components of a pathogen and are thus very specific to that pathogen. "The automated SARS-CoV-2 antigen tests can be a valuable help in scaling up covid-19 diagnostic testing in India. With sophisticated technology, high accuracy, fast turnaround time and easy accessibility, these tests are apt to diagnose individuals with symptoms of COVID-19, contact tracing of asymptomatic individuals and for surveillance testing in settings with high risk of infection," Dr Nitin M Chavan, Consultant Pathologist, Lilavati Hospital and Research Center said.

Recently, Trivitron Healthcare, a medical technology organization announced the launch of Mobile Laboratory for Covid Testing to facilitate covid-19 diagnostics in urban, rural areas and far-flung geographies. Indigenous lab will be deployed in rural, inaccessible parts of the country and has the capability to process 2,500 samples per day which includes RT-PCR test, Rapid Antigen tests, CLIA/ Elisa Antibodies Tests IgG and IgM and CLIA/ Elisa Tests for Inflammatory Markers like D-Dimer, CRP and IL-6.

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