Given a choice between Covid test results that take 24 hours and 15 minutes, odds are one would opt for the latter. That’s what 40-year-old Dipika Kapadia did when she woke up feeling unwell in the third week of June. She chose a simple nose swab and an instant result at home over the more complicated but also more accurate RT-PCR test. Kapadia’s test came back negative. Relieved, she put the matter to rest instead of following it up with an RT-PCR test as laid out by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) in its guidelines guidelines ICMR Home Testing Guidelines Read more

Over the last year, both RT-PCR and rapid antigen tests have been used to test for the SARS-CoV2 virus. But the inherent nature of rapid antigen tests—quicker and less expensive than the gold standard RT-PCR—lends itself to home-testing. And diagnostics companies have made the most of it by launching kits that are as easy to use as, say, a pregnancy test or a glucometer. 

In less than a month since its launch launch Mint Launch Read more , Pune-based Mylab Discovery Solutions has supplied an initial batch of one million test kits, named CoviSelf, to 100,000 pharmacies and e-commerce site Flipkart. Before it ventured into home testing, it had a headstart on its competitors—nearly 50% of its Covid test kit sales for the year ended March 2021 were attributed to rapid antigen kits sold to the centre, state, and private players. The company pulled in Rs 850 crore ($115 million) in revenue that year, according to Mylab’s promoter and managing director Hasmukh Rawal—a massive jump from the Rs 8.2 crore ($1 million) it earned in revenue for the year ended March 2020.

Aside from Mylab, ICMR and Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) have also approved home-testing kits such as Gujarat-based Meril Diagnostics’ CoviFind and US-based Abbott’s Panbio. Pre-pandemic, Meril Diagnostics had been running into serial losses. 

For all their advantages, rapid antigen tests, which look for certain molecules on the surface of the virus to indicate whether or not the person has contracted Covid, aren’t the most accurate—be it in terms of sensitivity or specificity. 

Sensitivity v/s Specificity

A high sensitivity means the test can detect more of Covid-positive patients correctly, while high specificity entails correctly ruling out those that are negative for the virus

The RT-PCR test, which analyses sequences of genetic material to detect the presence of the virus, has a sensitivity of over 95% and specificity of close to 100% on average.

AUTHOR

Maitri Porecha

Maitri writes about everything health for The Ken. For close to 10 years now, she has navigated hospital corridors in her search for a good story. In a past life, when she was not a journalist, she used to teach French at her neighbourhood school. Also an avid fan of forensics, she is always up for decoding mysteries in her free time.

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