Rayhan Sobhan, an engineer by profession and a former student of Chittagong University of Engineering and Technology (CUET), gave his specimen to Chevron Clinical Laboratory, a private diagnostic centre in the port city, for Covid-19 test on June 25.
Three days later, his test report came positive.
Worried, Rayhan (28) then rushed to the private Imperial Hospital in Chattogram city on June 30 to have his wife and three-year-old child tested for the virus, and also gave his sample again for a second test.
This time, his report came back negative along with his wife and child the next day, leaving him perplexed.
Rayhan then contacted a physician in this regard who advised him to remain isolated for some days and take primary care of himself.
"I paid Tk 3,545 for the test at Chevron lab and Tk 3,700 at Imperial Hospital for each person for the test, in total spending around Tk 15,000, and yet I am not sure whether I am positive or negative for Covid-19," he told The Daily Star today.
"Some of my well-wishers have advised me to go for testing to a third laboratory to be sure, but isn't it harassment of patients and a waste of money?" Rayhan said.
"It had an impact on my treatment also. Even my physician is now confused whether I should continue Covid-19 treatment," he also said.
"The private laboratories charge a lot to conduct Covid-19 test. Also, both these labs are well reputed. But if the reports are misleading, how will the patients trust these labs?" Rayhan added.
WHAT EXPERTS SAY
Dr Abdur Rob, a senior consultant of Medicine and focal person of Covid-19 treatment at Chattogram General Hospital, said it may have happened that the patient was Covid-19 positive when he tested for the first time on June 25 and then on June 30, when he tested for the second time, he became negative.
"A Covid-19 positive patient may become negative in 14 days after symptoms appear," he said, adding, "If it was the 10th day or 12th day when he tested for the first time on June 25, then it may happen that on June 30, he became negative."
Asked whether there is any chance to get false or incorrect results from PCR lab, he said an ideal PCR lab usually does not give false positive result, however, there is 30 percent chance of getting a false negative result.
When contacted, Prof Dr Shakeel Ahmed, in-charge of Bangladesh Institute of Tropical and Infectious Diseases (BITID) laboratory, also opined the same.
"Yes, there is chance of false negatives coming in tests conducted at an ideal PCR lab," he said.
Dr Shakeel, however, said in case of Chattogram the scenario is a bit tricky.
"In Chattogram, most PCR labs are not ideal in terms of manpower and other logistic support and so there is a chance for both false positives and false negatives," he said.
"For example, when PCR test started in Chattogram University lab, the results of 78 out of 82 samples came back positive, which was very unusual compared to the national trend," Dr Shakeel said. "Then I visited the lab and found many problems there. They did not have trained manpower for PCR testing until I arranged training for the staff.
"I know a private lab in the port city failed to provide the report to the patients on just the second day of starting Covid-19 tests as they had contaminated all the samples," he also said. "They had to test those further on the third day."
Asked about patients' hardships caused by erroneous results despite spending money for Covid-19 tests at private labs, Dr Shakeel said as the labs have just begun testing, there may have been some problems initially, which will not continue once the staff gather experience.
"One thing I must say is that there is lack of trained manpower in those labs. If they come to us, we will provide them training," he said.
Dr Shakeel also said if patients are confused over test results then they should be given symptomatic treatment.
Pulak Parial, general manager of Chevron Clinical Lab, could not be reached for comment as his cell phone was switched off.
Despite several attempts to call the Imperial Hospital hotline, no one answered.
At present, two private laboratories are conducting Covid-19 tests in the port city.
Contacted, Chattogram Civil Surgeon Dr Sheikh Fazle Rabbi said no one came to him with any such complaint.
"If I get any complaint, I will look into it," the civil surgeon added.