WHO and Partners to roll out 120 million Rapid Diagnostic Tests for COVID-19

The World Health Organization announced on September 29, 2020 that it will roll out 120 million rapid diagnostic tests for COVID-19 joining hands with its partners. This would allow the lower- and middle-income countries to fill in the testing gap with richer countries.

Key Facts

  • These rapid diagnostic tests will be antigen based.
  •  The price of a single test kit is to be 5 USD per piece.
  • The programe will begin by October 2020.
  • It will help in reaching to those areas where the Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests do not reach.

Background

The high-income and developed countries are currently carrying 292 tests per day per 100,000 people. While the low-income countries and developing countries are conducting just 14 tests per 100,000 people. Therefore, the testing capabilities of these countries needs to be increased. Antigen Tests would amplify the process. Further, the PCR tests are expensive and are generally used by rich countries. It also require large number of experts to conduct the test.

Antigen Tests

The Antigen based rapid diagnostic tests look for proteins or antigens that are found on the surface of the virus. A rapid antigen test (RAT) is suitable for point-of-care testing  which directly detects the presence or absence of an antigen. They are considered less accurate. They are much faster than the high-grade genetic tests called the PCR tests.

Significance

The World Health Organization (WHO) finds the rapid diagnostic tests is of great significance specially where community transmission is widespread and nucleic acid amplification based diagnostic tests (NAAT) such as PCR- tests are unavailable.