No end to Covid-19 testing kit crisis


The crisis of coronavirus testing kits is still not over though the government is trying to enhance testing facilities amid ever rising cases.

In terms of the number of tests, Bangladesh remains at the bottom among the South Asian countries, and the crisis of kits has already led to suspension of testing in some laboratories.

Shortage of kits at such a crucial time raises serious concern as it is not only causing delays in identifying infected people and tracing their contacts, but also in deciding whether a patient has recovered, said experts.

They said the authorities were not testing enough people taking the country's high population density into consideration. The number of daily tests still hovers around 18,000, although it should be at least 20,000.

As of Thursday, the country tested 18,362 samples, shows data from the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS).
According to www.worldometers.info, 4,029 out of every one million people in the country have so far been tested, whereas the number is 89,351 in the United States, 83,585 in Italy and 5,329 in India.

However, the Department of Health has instructed the country's laboratories to test double samples using the same amount of reagents as long as there exists the inability to increase the supply of kits. As a result, two samples are being tested using the same amount of reagent.

Bangladesh Livestock Research Institute (BLRI), conducted the survey by testing two samples by one kit in their lab. As the result was positive, the organization proposed to the Department of Health on June 17 to test in this manner.

Later, from June 20, various laboratories were instructed to conduct such tests. In this regard, 69 laboratories are testing corona virus currently, out of which about 50 labs are testing in this manner, said the BLRI authorities.

However, virology and microbiology experts and pathologists from various government laboratories have expressed worries about the 100% result of the sample test in this method. Experts said that the correct results are coming in 90 out of 100 tests.

However, experts warned that without skilled manpower and experts, the results of the test using half of the reagents may not be accurate. Experts from several important labs in the capital in particular have warned that it is not the time to do anything experimental with corona samples. Those of us who serve must remember this. Now we have to stick to the international protocol.

In particular, the Department of Health did not inform the National Technical Advisory Committee, which was set up to look into and advise on the quality of coronavirus tests and laboratories, about the introduction of this new method of testing.

In this regard, a member of the committee and former Vice Chancellor of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University and Chairman of the Department of Virology, Professor Dr Nazrul Islam said, “I found out that they are testing in Chattogram like this. 

But the Department of Health did not tell us anything. Even we do not know. I will ask the chairman of the committee to hold a meeting on this matter. Because we need to know what is happening.”

The expert said “now if the test is reduced due to the kit crisis, the wrong test is done, it will be very bad. We have asked for at least 20,000 tests per day.”

Meanwhile, BLRI says, about 50 labs are testing samples using half the re-agents. But it has been found out that none of the 36 labs in the capital are conducting such tests. All labs including National Institute of Laboratory Medicine and Referral Center, Dhaka Medical College, Child Health Research Foundation and Dhaka Children's Hospital, ICDDR B, IEDCR are testing using volume of reagents as before.

On the other hand, in the absence of kits, low collection data have been found in different parts of the country. Companies collecting samples outside Dhaka, including BRAC, have been asked to reduce collection due to shortage of kits, company sources said.

As a result, an average of 30 percent less samples are being collected now than before. Due to low collection of samples, it has been reported that less samples are coming to the National Laboratory in Dhaka.

Virologists, microbiologists and pathologists from different labs said that in this method everything has been reduced proportionately. It is not just the reagent being halved; earlier 10 microliter samples were given, now 5 microliter samples are being given. It takes 5-10 microliters for testing. Previously there were 10 microliter samples and 30 microliter re-agents; Now the health department is asking to reduce both of them by half.