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Widespread use of rapid tests in virus-stricken Indonesia raises questions

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Widespread use of rapid tests in virus-stricken Indonesia raises questions

A health official arranges rapid test kits at the Indonesian Sports Council (KONI) office in Malang, East Java, on May 12. (Antara/Ari Bowo Sucipto) The widespread use of rapid antibody tests for COVID-19 as requirements for various activities during the pandemic, including for traveling in Indonesia, has sparked concerns among experts, who called for better government control over their use.

Post-market surveillance on rapid antibody test brands used in the country carried out by the Association of Indonesia’s Clinical Pathology and Laboratory Medicine specialists (PDS PatKLIn) showed that many of them had sensitivity and specificity lower than 50 percent, the association’s chairwoman, Aryati, said.

"With low sensitivity, chances of false negatives are high […] While with low specificity, chances for false positives are high," Aryati, also a professor at Surabaya’s Airlangga University, told The Jakarta Post, on Monday.

The COVID-19 task force has recommended 155 brands from various producers, as of April 28. It said it was referring to a list issued by the World Health Organization (WHO) — which did not endorse the brands but rather inventoried lists from national regulatory agencies — and products with certification by the European Union, the United States Food and Drug Administration and the like.

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Although the varying quality of the test kits was the main problem, Aryati said how laboratory workers carried out the tests and the absence of training for these workers had also affected the accuracy of the tests.

She pointed to examples of how the incorrect volume of the samples taken, the prolonged time to interpret the results and the sampling of capillary blood, rather than venous blood, could lead to false negatives […]

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