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Strict adherence to ART kit instructions vital

James Kon

COVID-19 antigen rapid test (ART) users must strictly follow the instructions in the COVID-19 Antigen Detection Kit package insert, Director of Laboratory Services at the Ministry of Health (MoH) Dr Hajah Surita binti Haji Mohd Taib told the Sunday Bulletin in an online interview yesterday.

“It is very important to use the proper sample type; other sample types may cause inaccurate or invalid test results. Also, ensure a sufficient amount of a sample is used for testing. Too much or too little may also cause inaccurate results,” she said.

Different ART results (for example, different test line intensity) may be due to the amount of sample load. Hence, the test depends heavily on the quality and sufficient volume of the sample collected. Performing multiple ART screenings at once may also yield inaccurate results during which an individual may have one ART kit return COVID-positive, and another negative. This is because the sample from the later test had insufficient antigen to be detected.

Meanwhile, Dr Hajah Surita said the Department of Laboratory Services has carried out quality assurance assessments to ensure all MoH-authorised art kits are reliable and suitable for supply to the Brunei market.

With regards to the difference in the Newgene test kit packaging, she explained, “I was informed by suppliers in the Sultanate that the manufacturer of Newgene has different packaging for Malaysia and Brunei Darussalam. The MoH-authorised suppliers carry a different packaging. We do not know if the kits are fake. We will know once they undergo the quality assurance test.”

Director of Laboratory Services at the Ministry of Health Dr Hajah Surita binti Haji Mohd Taib. PHOTO: JAMES KON

“Newgene recently introduced the nasal ART kit. The latest packaging is according to the sample type required. If it is nasal, the packaging will carry a nasal label,” she explained.

On the subject of reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) testing for the public, Dr Hajah Surita explained that the current criteria is in accordance with the health protocol stipulating that it will only be administered to individuals with a doctor’s referral and those confused about the ART results after testing both positive and negative.

“Not everyone should take the RT-PCR test anymore. The ART kit is now the default test to screen for the virus,” she said.

Companies are also urged not to send employees to get RT-PCR tested any longer, as “each RT-PCR test cost around BND50”.

In term of cross reactivity with other virus in the test kit, she said, “We check the documentation of ART kit for any cross reactivity with other pathogens. In accordance to the documentation, we found there are no cross reactivity with other pathogens in the kit available.”

“The Brunei government has provided the public access to ART kit, and the MoH through the Laboratory Services will guarantee the quality of ART kits available in Brunei Darussalam.

“We will continue to disseminate information to ensure the ART is done correctly in accordance with the health protocol,” Dr Hajah Surita said.