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Coronavirus outbreak: Rajasthan cuts rate of RT-PCR test at private labs

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New Delhi, Sep 16: Rajasthan health department has slashed the rate of RT-PCR (reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction) test at private labs by Rs 1,000 on Tuesday. RT-PCR is the confirmatory test for COVID-19.

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According to the department's principal secretary Akhil Arora, the government decided to slash the rate from Rs 2,200 to Rs 1,200 in view of drop in prices of testing kit, reagents, VTM kits and other consumables. The state also considered the rates of the test in other states.

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According to reports, Health minister Raghu Sharma had said the decision was taken after consultation with senior doctors of SMS Medical College and other experts. RT-PCR tests are done at 35 labs in Rajasthan, including those at government facilities. The test is done free of cost at government labs.

"Exercising powers under section 4 of the Rajasthan Epidemic Diseases Ordinance, 2020, the rate of RT-PCR tests is fixed at Rs 1,200, including all taxes, at NABL accredited and ICMR approved labs," the notification said.

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While rapid antigen tests detect viral protein, the RT-PCR tests detect viral RNA or its genetic material. RT-PCR tests 'amplify' viral RNA while detecting it, but antigen tests do not do any such amplification of the detected viral protein, the experts noted. Because of this amplification step, RT-PCR tests for viral RNA are more sensitive than antigen tests.

There are not enough RT-PCR tests and they take a long time to do in specialised centres. So the world is using RA tests for the same reason that India is using them, and with similar somewhat spuriously comforting rationale.

A large number of tests can be done at many locations. All of these feel like advantages in an active spreading epidemic. The formal ICMR recommendation has always been to test people who are 'negative' with a 'rapid antigen test' with an RT-PCR test, at least for symptomatic individuals. So this exhortation by the health ministry seems more or less in line with that original position.

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