NICED admits testing kits have problem in West Bengal

Amid claims by the West Bengal Department of Health and Family Welfare that testing kits being supplied by ICMR-NICED about two weeks ago have started to “throw up a large number of inconclusive results”, representatives of NICED (National Institute of Cholera and Enteric Disease) on Monday admitted of glitches in them.

“This has been noted by the ICMR as well….. It is unfortunate that the kits are not standardised by the manufacturer to give exact results… It is difficult for each of the medical college to standardise the kits… hence they are showing different and inconclusive results. The matter is being seriously addressed by the ICMR,” NICED director Shanta Dutta told The Hindu.

Also read: Data | India’s coronavirus testing rates are among the lowest in the world

“We received instruction from ICMR, not to distribute the faulty kit, instead to distribute NIV assembled kit,” she added.

On Sunday, the Health Department tweeted, “The apparently defective test kits supplied by ICMR-NICED, Kolkata are resulting in a high number of repeat/ confirmatory tests and causing delays and other attendant problems at a time when we are battling a pandemic. This is an issue that ICMR needs to look into immediately”. It said inconclusive results were “necessitating a repeat confirmatory test run, thereby causing a delay in generation of final test report”. There was no problem when testing kits were received directly from the National Institute of Virology (NIV), Pune, but recently, supplies to the government labs have been routed through ICMR- NICED, Kolkata, it added.

Dr. Dutta said the initial kits were assembled by the NIV, where it standardised them with other reagents and controls and distributed them directly to other Virus Reserach Diagnostic Laboratories (VRDLs). “When the numbers of kit supply increased, it was difficult for the NIV to cope up with the demand. Then, the ICMR started procuring ready-made kits and supplied them to the VRDLs through 16 depots across the country”.

Also read: Data | Which States recorded the most coronavirus cases, deaths, and the best testing rates?

400 samples tested a day

The development comes at a time, when questions are being raised if West Bengal, the fourth most populous State in the country is doing enough test. The State government has seven testing tabs, which includes five State-run and two private, and the number of COVID-19 tests on a daily basis remains at 400. The Calcutta High Court on April 17 advised the State to increase testing on a “war footing”. The government also announced that it would start conducting rapid antibody tests as per ICMR directives in “red zones areas where containment activities are going” only upon receipt of prior clearance from Swasthya Bhawan. The State has about 198 active cases of viral infection and 12 deaths, according to an official bulletin of the Health Department on April 19.

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