Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah gave an example of why the ministry discourages the use of antibody rapid tests in the detection of COVID-19
In the press conference for daily COVID-19 updates yesterday, 7 April, he revealed how a patient was discharged after testing negative with an antibody rapid test kit recently.
According to Malaysiakini, the patient, Case 1031, died from the virus one day after she was discharged, but not before she infected her family members.
Four of them have since passed away due to COVID-19.
Dr Noor Hisham explained how antibody tests are not able to detect infections at an early stage, which is the reason RT-PCR and antigen rapid tests were preferred
According to New Straits Times, he said conventional laboratory RT-PCR tests and antigen rapid tests detect the presence of the virus itself in our bodies.
In comparison, antibody test kits detect human antibodies that are only produced by the body five to eight days after the COVID-19 infection.
This makes RT-PCR and antigen tests more accurate compared to antibody tests.
The problem with RT-PCR tests are that they take longer to process in a laboratory. Malay Mail reported that it takes a minimum of six hours, but with the volume of cases being screened, it could take up to 24 hours for results to come back.
The case he provided was an example of how the antibody test had missed a positive COVID-19 case, and thus not encouraged by the Ministry of Health
"One of the reasons for the infections in Sarawak was that the patient was warded in a private healthcare facility where they used the antibody rapid test, along with the RT-PCR test," said Dr Nor Hisham in the press conference yesterday.
"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," he stressed.
"Therefore when she went home, she infected her family members."
"This is one of the factors why the ministry does not recommend the use of antibody rapid tests," he concluded.
The recent COVID-19 cluster in Sarawak was linked to a patient who did not disclose her travel history with authorities:
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