Japan plans to approve antigen approach to testing on COVID-19. Such tests can detect the virus quickly but produce false negatives at a higher rate than the currently dominant PCR, or polymerase chain reaction, tests.
Antigen tests scan for proteins found on or inside a virus, and typically test a sample taken from the nasal cavity using swabs.
Japanese health ministry official announced its plan to boost the number of diagnostic tests available to curb the coronavirus outbreak. Laboratory Fujirebio last month applied for government approval for its antigen kit.
“It is difficult to keep track of all those who are infected with PCR tests alone,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga confirmed during news conference on Tuesday.
For Japanese public health sector, important to try and get a good grasp of the epidemiological situation with various measures such as antigen tests and antibody tests.
As NHK reported on Tuesday, Japan has reported about 16,680 confirmed infections, including 712 from the cruise ship previously quarantined in port of Yokohama, and 670 deaths to date.
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.
Tests help to keep the actual database on COVID-19 situation
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.
Fujirebio Lab can produce 200,000 kits per week, roughly on par with the number of PCR tests conducted in April in Japan. 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.
Demand for rapid testing kits has surged with governments scrambling to contain the pandemic that has infected more than 4 million people worldwide 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.