Tatarstan Health Care Ministry to test COVID-19 anti-bodies in one in hundred Tatarstan residents

Many residents of the republic will have to do tests for coronavirus antibodies following Muscovites

As Realnoe Vremya found out, mass free testing for COVID-19 anti-bodies will start in Tatarstan soon. Moreover, the testing won’t follow the Moscow pattern: not everybody and volunteers but a very wide circle of people will be tested. The region’s Ministry of Health Care already has 50,000 tests at its disposal. The testing will help to understand when the coronavirus appeared in Tatarstan in fact and how the cancellation of restrictive measures in the republic can influence.

COVID test after acute respiratory infection

First Vice Minister of Health Care Almir Abashev told Realnoe Vremya that the Tatarstan Ministry of Health Care was planning to start a large-scale examination of the population of the republic for immunity resistance to COVID-19 soon:

“We have 50,000 tests at our disposal now, and we will receive more. We are creating a concept to examine patients and plan to do the next. We will try to examine everybody who had cases of acute respiratory infection from autumn to spring in 2019-2020 for immunity resistance to the coronavirus. If it circulated a long time ago, it means that we shouldn’t be so scared. The examination will have three stages: doctors who worked with patients will be tested first, then it is patients who have recently had an acute respiratory infection, the rest will be tested later.

It is planned to start the large-scale examination of immunity resistance to the virus in the next ten days.

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“The mass media can help us very much in this work,” Almir Abashev stressed. “It is necessary to communicate to the population that it is very important to respond when the polyclinic calls them, go and do a blood test.”

“There will be testing, but not mass”

Head of the Anti-COVID-19 Headquarters Leyla Fazleyeva earlier answered Realnoe Vremya’s question if it was planned to launch free mass testing for COVID-19 anti-bodies and said “no”. However, mass testing was meant, the one announced in Moscow.

At the same time, there isn’t a contradiction between the upcoming testing and statements of the Tatarstan vice premier. Now Fazleyeva commented on the Health Care Ministry’s initiative: “I have been asked a question about the testing of all citizens. And there will be testing, of course, but not mass”.

“We will define the population’s protection level”

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“Now we are determining the anti-gene in the laboratory, that’s to say, the virus itself in biological liquids of a person. And for this purpose we are using the polymerase chain reaction method,” Chief Specialist in Epidemiology of the Tatarstan Ministry of Health Dmitry Lopushov told Realnoe Vremya. “Anti-body definition is another method of diagnostics. By immunology laws, when a pathogenic agent gets in — a bacterium, virus, the organism starts to respond, generate antibodies. And this is called immunity. In the end, Immunoglobulin M start to be produced, which means an acute phase of the disease, and then Immunoglobulin G is produced, which indicates that the disease took place and it remains in the organism forever. And when a person faces this infectious agent, cells of the immune system recognise it, and immunoglobulin activates it, the disease doesn’t develop.”

According to Lopushov, the scheduled examination will allow determining the level of the population’s protection. Figuratively speaking, if 95% of the population had the immunoglobulin, it would be possible to lift the restrictive measures.

At the moment, the chief specialist in epidemiology of the Tatarstan Ministry of Health says that, first of all, doctors will be tested, then it is conscripts. It is the groups whose protection level from the coronavirus is especially important today.

Private clinics want to participate too

Now only testing for the infection is available in Kazan, and one has to pay for it. Only two labs are performing the test in the republic, another one, KDL, is getting ready to launch the testing from 27 May.

“We are doing polymerase chain reaction tests, which detect the infection of asymptomatic virus carriers, that’s to say, allow diagnosing the coronavirus here and now,” Director General of one of the clinics — Biomed treatment and diagnostic centre — Rimma Gizatullina told our newspaper. “Their sensitivity is estimated at 95%. We are testing those who don’t have a cough, temperature and other symptoms of an acute respiratory infection. But now we are holding talks to be permitted to do tests for anti-bodies — to perform ELISA tests. They are less sensitive, at about 70%.”

“The PCR and ELISA are two different methods,” she stressed. “A person may not be ill when he is doing the PCR test, however, he can have had the disease and have the virus, spread the infection. ELISA tests will detect those who have had the coronavirus this season but was diagnosed with acute respiratory infection.”

“The more information the better”

Rimma Gizatullina thinks that the examination planned by the Tatarstan Health Care Ministry is very important, its results will help to evaluate the danger of the infection correctly:

“The pandemic can be defeated when 70-80% of the population recovers from it, and these statistics — the real incidence — can be obtained only by testing. Chairman of the Association of Health Care Workers of the Republic of Tatarstan Rostislav Tiushev has the same opinion:

“Nowadays the problem is thoroughly studied, and I just can say that any amount of data, and the more the better, leads us to the truth. A lot, of course, will turn on the quality of material the tests are made of. Moreover, it is important to understand why the virus develops in one person and dies in another one, what immunity it is — inherent or acquired, if it is linked with some previous vaccinations.”

Tuishev assumes that all scenarios are possible, the dangerous coronavirus can even “rage for a couple of months and disappear” or will stay with us for long. And at the moment the forecast is unclear, he recommends following all recommendations and requirements of doctors, Russia’s consumer protection watchdog Rospotrebnadzor, the government.

Cost of matter

The Ministry of Health Care doesn’t say how much the free testing of Tatarstan for immunity to COVID-19 residents will cost the budget — the expenses haven’t probably been calculated yet. While Rimma Gizatullina told Realnoe Vremya that she wasn’t yet ready to call the price for the test for patients — the clinic hasn’t come to an agreement with the supplier. However, they hope it won’t exceed the cost of the PCR test, which is done now (1,800 rubles including blood test), while probably it will be in line with Moscow prices (about 1,100 rubles).

“Not to get a false-positive result, the test must be done meeting all requirements — only on empty stomach, don’t eat fatty food the day before and so on,” Gizatullina warned those who don’t want to waste their money.

By Inna Serova