Govt to allow antigen test in pvt hospitals
The government is going to allow private hospitals and clinics to conduct antigen-based Covid-19 rapid testing in a bid to expand testing facilities and make those more easily available.
Antigen-based testing facilities are currently available only at government hospitals. Private hospitals and clinics also want to have the facility in the wake of the recent spike in Covid infections, health officials said.
On June 1, the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) sent a letter to the Health Services Division of the health ministry, detailing the cost and other issues regarding the rapid antigen test.
The DGHS letter said the rapid antigen testing should be introduced along with the ongoing RT-PCR testing in private hospitals during the pandemic.
"We have sent a letter to the ministry, but are yet to get any response," Farid Hossain Miah, director (hospitals and clinics) at DGHS, told The Daily Star yesterday.
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.
According to the DGHS letter, antigen testing is being conducted at government hospitals for Tk 100 each and it is now necessary to open the service in the private sector.
The cost of importing the testing kits will at mostbe Tk 500 each. Private hospitals and clinics can charge each patient a maximum of Tk 700, including service charges, the letter added.
On September 17 last year, the government permitted antigen-based rapid testing at public healthcare centres to scale up the testing facilities.
In the rapid antigen testing, a suspected patient will get the result within 30 minutes after the collection of samples.
Farid said permission for rapid antigen testing will not be given to all private hospitals and clinics, rather those who have RT-PCR testing facilities and belong to A and B categories will get the permission.
As of yesterday, a total of 334 government healthcare establishments had the rapid antigen testing facility, according to the DGHS.
For the detection of Covid-19, the RT-PCR test is considered the golden standard and it is widely used in Bangladesh. But it takes at least 24 hours to get results.
If the antigen test results of individuals showing Covid symptoms are negative, their samples will be tested again using RT-PCR machine for confirmation.
Rapid antigen tests are commonly used in the diagnosis of respiratory pathogens, including influenza viruses and respiratory syncytial virus, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
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 work best when a person is tested in the early stages of infection with Sars-CoV-2, when viral load is generally highest, CDC says.
Contacted, Health Minister Zahid Maleque yesterday said, "We have already permitted government hospitals to carry out antigen-based testing. To expand the facilities, we will give permission to private hospitals and clinics. We are now reviewing the costs and are hopeful of granting the permission soon."