COVID-19: Japan plans to approve its first antigen testing kits

by Shatakshi Gupta

All the countries are continuously fighting against Covid-19 pandemic, and everyone around the world is just focusing on the research and development of some vaccine, so that we can overcome from this crisis. In such a situation, apart from vaccine, all the countries are also equally focusing on the testing kits, as the countries with higher number of coronavirus cases have been falling short of the testing kits.

According to the Reuters, now as the cases are rising in Japan, so the country now plans to approve its first coronavirus antigen testing kits on Wednesday, a health ministry official said, to boost the number of diagnostic tests available to battle the pandemic.

Fujirebio, a subsidiary of Japanese diagnostics and laboratory testing service provider Miraca Holdings, applied for government’s approval for its antigen kit the previous month.

Basically, when we talk about the antigen tests then, in this case we are primarily testing for the presence of those proteins which are usually present either on the outside or inside a virus. This test is conducted by taking a sample from the nasal cavity with the help of the swabs. The tests can detect the virus quickly but produce false negatives at a higher rate than the currently dominant PCR, or polymerase chain reaction, tests.

“It is difficult to keep track of all those who are infected with PCR tests alone,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a regular news conference on Tuesday.

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“We will try and get a good grasp of the infection situation with various measures such as antigen tests and antibody tests.”

As of 12 May, in 2020, total 15,847 confirmed cases of coronavirus have been reported in Japan; also this country had witnessed total 633 deaths till date, according to Worldometer.  

Although those tallies are relatively low given its population of 126 million, critics say the low rate of testing has made it difficult to trace the virus, which has led to a series of in-hospital infections, crippling some facilities.

Japan has conducted 188 PCR tests per 100,000 people, versus 3,159 in Italy and 3,044 in Germany, data from a panel of medical experts advising the government showed.

It takes about 30 minutes to get a result with Fujirebio’s palm-sized antigen test kit, compared with four to six hours for a PCR test, the health ministry said in a statement.

Fujirebio can produce 200,000 kits per week, roughly on par with the number of PCR tests conducted in April in Japan.

The demand for the rapid testing kits had risen as all the governments are struggling to contain this pandemic that had infected more than 4.2 million people globally and killed over 285,000.

Japan has approved Gilead Sciences’ remdesivir as a treatment for COVID-19, making it the country’s first authorized drug to tackle the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government aims to approve by the end of the month Fujifilm Holdings Corp’s anti-flu drug Avigan as a treatment for COVID-19.