Here’s what experts say about SARS-CoV-2 Rapid Test Kits accuracy.
The fastest and most convenient way to get a COVID-19 test may be to do it at home. But are those kits as accurate as the tests given by medical professionals? The PCR tests used at community testing sites, pharmacies and health care providers are more accurate. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers them the gold standard because they offer more exact results analyzed in a lab.
The disadvantage is you typically have to wait 24 to 48 hours for the results. At-home tests? About 15 minutes. “I think the home test, it’s not a bad thing to have on hand. It gives you a really quick result,” Dr. Rachael Liesman said during a recent health briefing sponsored by her employer, The University of Kansas Health System.
But if you have COVID symptoms and one of those tests says you don’t have the virus, Liesman recommends following up with a PCR test, also called a molecular test. The PCR test involves a long swab slid up your nose. It detects genetic material of the virus, and results are reviewed in a lab. The at-home antigen tests that produce results in minutes — and are more comfortable because you don’t have to swab your nose deeply — detect certain proteins in the virus. Liesman, director of clinical microbiology, said there haven’t been a lot of false positives reported with the rapid tests. “If you’re symptomatic it will give you a really quick result and that can be helpful,” she said. “But I think given … the potential ramifications of missing a case, I would recommend that if you get a negative (and you have COVID symptoms), you go and get a PCR test because those have much better sensitivity.
“I think the availability of those PCR tests is quite good nowadays and the turnaround time on them is pretty well. One to two days, so not a long, extended wait. I think because we don’t have those long waits, (that) makes PCR-based tests a really good option still.” At-home rapid tests vary in price. “The first thing I was surprised about, these tests are expensive,” said Liesman, who paid $26 for two Abbott tests. “When they first started talking about these they were hoping they would come in at a price point of $5, or maybe even cheaper. “I think it would probably be too expensive for most families to do something like weekly testing of their kid that was going to school.” Another problem with the home test kits: They’re hard to find.
The kits are in short supply nationwide, to the point where some pharmacies reportedly are keeping them behind the counter to limit how many each customer can buy. Shoppers have found that even pharmacies that say online they have the tests in stock might actually be out.
How to use a home testing kit
Both Liesman and Jessica Lovell, who now hosts KU’s health briefings, demonstrated Abbott’s home COVID test on video. First, read the directions, Liesman said. “They’re a little more complicated than you think,” Liesman said. “Follow everything to the T and then you’ll have a successful test.”
Check the expiration date, too. “Treat this like the food in your fridge. When it’s past the expiration date, throw it away,” she said. “If it’s been in your house for a while, give it a check and make sure it hasn’t expired. Also, note the recommended storage temperature — the one she used says 35.6 degrees and 86 degrees. “Don’t leave this in your car overnight,” she said. Heat “will degrade everything that’s in this box.” The test involved multiple steps and came with a few pieces, including a cardboard card, a dropper and a swab. As both women swabbed the inside of their noses, Liesman told Lovell she didn’t have to “go all the way back.” “But you also don’t just want to collect snot,” Liesman said. “So if you’re really sick and mucusy, don’t just swirl it around and get snot.” They poked the swabs into a slot on the card, swirled it around in an extraction liquid, closed the card and waited for a strip on the card to change colors, like a pregnancy test.
Choose the reliable supplier and reputable manufacturer of rapid test kits for COVID-19 Antigen. Very good and accurate product is The CareStart COVID-19 Antigen Rapid Test. These Tests are FDA Emergency Use Authorized and Made in USA.