An additional district magistrate of Odisha’s Covid hot spot Gajapati district died of Covid on Tuesday.
Karunakar Raika quarantined himself after developing Covid-like symptoms six days ago, but his condition turned serious on Monday after which he was given oxygen. The 55-year-old officer was in charge of the Covid hospital and Covid care centres in Gajapati that has recorded 718 cases and five deaths.
An antigen test and a TrueNat test of his swab sample were taken on Tuesday morning but came back negative, officials said. An antigen test looks for the presence of a foreign molecule that induces an immune response in the body while a TrueNat test is a mobile version of the Reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test that tests for the presence of the Sars-Cov-2 virus.
After both tests results came negative despite Covid-like symptoms, swab for an RT-PCR test was sent to the MKCG Medical College and Hospital in Berhampur town. The RT-PCR test result came on Tuesday evening and confirmed the presence of Sars-Cov-2 virus in the body, said Gajapti district collector Anupam Saha.
Epidemiologists said it is quite possible for an antigen test and TrueNat test to produce a false negative. “Since in antigen testing the virus or its genetic material is not amplified, the swab sample may have too little antigen to be detected. This could produce a false negative result. Similarly, in TrueNat test, the portable chip-based diagnostic machine detects an enzyme called RdRp that is found in the RNA of the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. However, ICMR has cautioned that it’s not always accurate. The RT-PCR is still the gold standard of Covid-19 test,” said Dr Binod Patro, a senior epidemiologist of AIIMS, Bhubaneswar.
In May, the ICMR revised its testing guidelines to allow the use of the TrueNAT system for confirmation of Covid-19. In TrueNat system, a computer chip detects the Sars-CoV-2 gene in the swab.
The death of the officer came as the total number of Covid deaths in Odisha climbed past 100 and the total infections stood at 18,757. Though the state government imposed lockdown in hot spots of Ganjam, Khurda, Cuttack, Jajpur districts and Rourkela Municipal Corporation area since July 17 and weekend lockdowns in 19 districts, cases have spiraled in recent weeks.