The government has approved rapid antibody tests for Covid-19, Health Minister Zahid Maleque said yesterday.
"There has long been a demand for the approval of antibody tests. We have now approved it, effective from today," he told reporters at his secretariat office.
The antibody tests can detect if a person had been infected with Covid-19 in the past and a possible immune response to the virus.
For months, there were strong recommendations from the National Technical Advisory Committee (NTAC) on Covid-19 to introduce both antigen and antibody-based rapid testing for Covid-19.
However, there was no progress in this regard till yesterday.
Officials, however, said they have not finalised any plan on how the antibody kits will be used.
Prof Nasima Sultana, additional director general of the Directorate General of Health Services, told The Daily Star, "We are busy implementing the Covid-19 vaccine rollout. We have no plans regarding antibody tests right now. We will start working on it later."
On June 26 last year, the Directorate General of Drug Administration (DGDA) disapproved a rapid antibody testing kit developed by Gonoshasthaya Pharmaceuticals as it was found capable of detecting antibodies in only "40 percent Covid-19" cases.
On June 24 that year, the DGDA published a draft policy on its website setting some criteria for the approval of rapid antibody testing kits. It said antibody kits with a minimum 90 percent sensitivity and 95 percent specificity will be approved.
According to the government policy, the rapid antibody testing kit can be used for sero-surveillance, convulsant plasma therapy and research.
The kit will be permitted to be used only by the laboratories, according to the government policy.
This newspaper made phone calls to Md Salahuddin, director of the drug administration, to learn whether there any new antibody testing kits in the country that meet the standards, but he did not answer.
On September 17, the government permitted antigen-based rapid testing at public healthcare centres.
As of yesterday, a total of 56 government healthcare establishments had the rapid antigen testing facility, according to the DGHS.