Are rapid covid tests accurate? Many seek answers to this question as more countries rolled out rapid tests to detect the presence of the coronavirus.
The US Food and Drug Administration approved last year the first over-the-counter (OTC) fully at-home diagnostic test for COVID-19. Read it here.
This year, Canada approved a rapid on-site PCR coronavirus test to speed up and ease using rapid test while using the technology of lab-based COVID-testing solutions. According to the Ottawa-based developer, this test can help relieve the burden on overwhelmed healthcare facilities. Read it here.
In the UK, lateral flow tests, which can be self-administered, are used to help detect large numbers of infectious cases sufficiently rapidly to prevent further onward spread. Read it here.
Upon its drug and medical equipment regulatory body’s approval, Israel is set to launch a rapid coronavirus testing kit for schools, nursing homes, airports, and workplaces. Read it here.
These developments target to ramp-up mass testing for the coronavirus with lesser costs and better efficiency.
Why early diagnostic testing is important
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact our individual and collective lives while outbreaks increase exponentially. You can check out the COVID-19 Dashboard here.
Early diagnostic testing helps public health experts assess and act on the disease’s prevalence, spread, and contagiousness.
- It leads to the quick detection of cases.
- Additionally, it helps treat the sick and isolate those with symptoms to prevent spread.
- Also, it facilitates identifying those who came into contact with infected people so they can be quickly treated.
Types of Covid-19 tests
There are three types of tests that are available for COVID-19.
This test looks for pieces of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, in the nose, throat, or other areas in the respiratory tract to determine if the person has an active infection.
They are also called polymerase chain reaction (PCR), RT-PCR, nucleic acid amplification test (NAAT), or loop-mediated isothermal amplification (LAMP) test.
A health provider takes a nasal or throat swab or saliva sample for laboratory testing.
For a rapid test, the sample can be processed immediately; and results given in a matter of minutes.
Results may be ready within hours but often take at least a day or two. Much longer turnaround times are reported in many places.
The rate of false negatives — a test that says you don’t have the virus when you have the virus — varies depending on how long infection has been present
This test checks for protein fragments or antigens from the SARS-CoV-2 virus to determine if a person has an active infection.
A health provider takes a nasal or throat swab for laboratory testing.
For a rapid test, the sample can be processed immediately, and the results given in a matter of minutes.
Rapid antigen tests are most reliable when people are in the early stages of COVID-19 when the viral load is highest in the throat and nasal passage.
False-negative results tend to occur more often with antigen tests than molecular tests.
Antibody (serology) test
This test looks for antibodies that the body’s immune system has produced against SARS-CoV-2. It accurately identifies past infection.
A health provider takes the blood sample for laboratory testing. Results are usually available within a few days.
Aside from getting yourself tested, you can protect yourself and your loved ones from the distress of contracting the virus. Read here.
Are rapid Covid tests accurate?
Still, the same question rages: Are rapid covid tests accurate? The answer is yes.
Here are the findings from various studies that prove their accuracy.
1. Frequent, rapid testing mitigates COVID-19 spread
Turnaround-time and frequency are more important than sensitivity in curbing COVID-19 spread.
That is, extensive twice-weekly rapid testing with a less sensitive test reduces the virus’s degree of infectiousness by 80%.
In comparison, twice-weekly testing with a more sensitive polymerase chain reaction, or PCR test, which takes up to 48 hours to return results, reduced infectiousness by 58%.
This finding is based on a study published by the University of Colorado Boulder and Harvard University researchers.
The same research explains that when the amount of testing was the same, the rapid test always reduced infectiousness better than the slower, more sensitive PCR test. Since about two-thirds of infected people have no symptoms while awaiting their results, they continue to spread the virus.
In medical testing, sensitivity measures how often a test generates a positive result for people
who have a particular condition.
“It’s better to have a less sensitive test with results today than a more sensitive one with results tomorrow,” says research lead author Daniel Larremore.
2. Rapid detection of the Covid-19 virus in 30 seconds get successful results
This time, a rapid test effectively detects one’s exposure to the COVID19 virus in 30 seconds without the need for a laboratory setting or trained health care workers.
The study utilizes a nanotube-based electrochemical biosensor that uses the patient’s breath to detect SARS-CoV-2.
The researchers, led by Prof. Mano Misra, from the University of Nevada, Reno, directly analyzed the RBD of the Spike glycoprotein on the sensor. After confirming the biosensor’s potential for clinical application, the team plans to validate the sensor’s use by using the swabs from COVID-19 patients. The swabs will be stored in the Viral Transport Medium (VTM).
An inexpensive, rapid and non-invasive testing platform will augment other diagnostic tools when completed.
3. Rapid antigen tests are useful when other real-time screening tools are not available
Rapid antigen tests offer results faster (approximately 15–30 minutes). Thus, persons who know their positive test result can isolate immediately. They should help initiate contact tracing sooner and be more effective than if a test result is returned several days later the screening.
Besides, these tests have high specificity. Specificity or true negative rate refers to the test’s ability to rule out the presence of a disease in someone who does not have it.
These findings come from a study conducted on a rapid antigen test for SARS-CoV-2 infection in two community-based testing sites in Arizona.
This article presented three recent studies that pointed out the following:
- Rapid COVID-19 tests are accurate in detecting infection
- The frequency and quick turnaround time inherent in rapid COVID-19 tests are more important than the tests’ sensitivity
- Everyone should help in addressing the pandemic because time is crucial.
As developers continue to improve rapid COVID tests, they may become more reliable and accessible to all.
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