A Malaysian health chief has slammed antibody rapid tests to detect COVID-19 after a woman was discharged from hospital when she tested negative only to infect four family members who all died.
Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said in a press conference that a patient, identified as case 1031, died from COVID-19 one day after being discharged from hospital when an antibody rapid test gave a negative result.
However, she had contracted the virus and passed it on to family members leading to four of them passing away.
The health director-general said that antibody tests are not able to detect infections at an early stage which is why RT-PCR (Reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction) and antigen rapid tests are preferred.
He added that RT-PCR and antigen rapid tests are both better at detecting the virus’ presence in human bodies.
In comparison, antibody test kits detect antibodies that are only produced by the body five to eight days after infection which is why the other two are considered more accurate, according to Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah.
However, RT-PCR tests take longer to process in a lab. Local media said they normally require a minimum of six hours, but with the increased cases being screened, it currently takes around 24 hours to get the results.
Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said: “One of the reasons for the infections in Sarawak was that the patient was kept in a private healthcare facility where they used the antibody rapid test, along with the RT-PCR test.
“However, they discharged the patient when the antibody test came back negative. At that point, her RT-PCR test result had not yet returned.
“The patient may not have the antibodies, but she had the virus. Therefore when she went home, she infected her family members.
“This is one of the reasons why the ministry does not recommend the use of antibody rapid tests.”
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