As the number of coronavirus cases and deaths rises in Indonesia, the government says it will use modified diagnostics test kits for tuberculosis available at more than 132 hospitals and public health centers for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) by the end of the week.
The government’s spokesperson for COVID-19-related matters, Achmad Yurianto, said on Wednesday that the government would start ordering cartridges for the rapid molecular test equipment that could detect the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19, whereas previously the equipment was only outfitted with cartridges to detect tuberculosis bacteria.
“These changes will certainly not be easy, because it requires changes to the machines’ settings in addition to training the human resources and preparing the cartridges. But we are optimistic that it can be done starting this week,” Yurianto said at a press conference on Wednesday, adding that test runs may already be conducted that day.
He said the use of TB test kits could shorten the time it takes to carry samples from the hospitals to laboratories, adding that the test used the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) method that was more accurate than the rapid testing.
The decision came after the Indonesian Society of Respirology (PDPI) said the government could use TB test kits by modifying the cartridges. The modified cartridges were designed by American molecular diagnostics company Cepheid, which also produces expert TBM/RIF machines used to test for TB.
The technology also recently received Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) from the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), approving its use to detect COVID-19 in the US.
The International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease that endorses COVID-19 testing with the TB kits said the technology could accelerate the detection of the disease in low- and middle-income countries, returning results as quickly as in 45 minutes.
In the press conference, Yurianto also said the country had recorded 1,677 cases of COVID-19 as of Wednesday with 157 fatalities and 103 recoveries. Cases have now been found in 32 of 34 Indonesian provinces.
He also said the government had distributed around 475,200 rapid test kits to every provincial health office for early detection and contact tracing, adding that it also had distributed 349,000 pieces of personal protective equipment for medical workers across the country.