Context: For reliable antibody testing kits, India will have to make its own, according to independent epidemiologists and biotechnologists.

More on news:

  • Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has advised states to refrain from conducting antibody tests using chinese kits as accurate results were not coming from them as observed in several states.
  • With the accuracy widely ranging from 5% to 71%, there are questions on whether they can reliably help indicate the spread of the infection.
  • It will now assess the scope and extent of utility of the test in field conditions.

ICMR’s Recommendation:

  • The ICMR’s current recommendation is to test those who show symptoms such cough, fever and breathlessness and even a sore throat. 
  • After quarantining for 14 days, an antibody test is to be done and if positive, the person ought to be tested by RT-PCR (Reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction).
  • The ICMR has underlined that tests are a surveillance tool
  • The utility of the test was evolving and its value was dependent on field conditions. 
  • They were not a replacement for RT-PCR (Reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction) tests as -
    • An antibody test only tells you whether a person has ever been infected by the virus. These antibodies that are produced are not necessarily specific to SARS COV-2 and could even be generated by a variety of other pathogens. 
    • There are other 4 other common coronaviruses and antibodies could be generated to that too. 
    • So far, nobody has found a protein that’s specific to SARS COV-2.
    • On the other hand the PCR technology is confirmatory because it identifies the SARS COV-2 based on genes.

Way Ahead:

  • The need of the hour is to have rapidly deployable RT PCR kits
  • If we can reduce the time taken for analysis, or have a paper-based strip that can detect the virus, it would be more useful.
  • There are at least seven Indian manufacturers of these kits awaiting approval from the National Institute of Virology, after which low cost and reliable testing could be conducted across states. 



Serological Test/ Rapid Test

Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR)


These are blood-based tests that can be used to identify whether people have been exposed to a particular pathogen by observing the development of antibodies.

It is done after taking nasal or throat swabs of the patient, from which RNA is extracted and converted to DNA, which is then amplified before being checked for confirmation of the virus.


Report comes in 30 minutes

Report comes after 9 hours.

Early Detection

Not possible as it takes 7-10 days for the antibodies to develop

Possible as it is a standard test for COVID -19  identification and not dependent on antibodies formation


Less efficient as after this PCR needs to be conducted anyways

More efficient as it ensures certainty of disease


Indian Council for Medical Research: 

  • It is the apex body in India for the formulation, coordination and promotion of biomedical research.
  • It is one of the oldest and largest medical research bodies in the world which was founded as IFRA (Indian Research Fund Association) in 1911 and later got its present name in 1949
  • The ICMR is funded by the Government of India through the Department of Health Research, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
  • The governing body of the council is presided over by the Union Health Minister.
  • ICMR's 26 national institutes address themselves to research on specific health topics like tuberculosis, leprosy, cholera etc..


Image Source: The Hindu