There’s a lot of misinformation out there regarding rapid antigen lateral flow tests…promoting, instead, the more expensive PCR tests that need a lab and can take a day or two for results. PCRs are regarded as the gold standard but are they really the best test for the job?
In direct comparison, rapid antigen lateral flow tests (which are cheaper, easier and provide results in minutes) are reported as being less accurate. But that’s not a fair comparison, because rapid antigen lateral flow tests are developed to look for high viral load….when people are most likely to be infectious. Not to pick up the residual traces when the infection has passed!
PCR tests still have a role – they can help detect new variants and may pick up Covid in the very early stages when viral load is low, which can be useful in certain specific situations.
Of course, the result is only as good as the test used and the sample taken. So, it’s important to use a test with proven accuracy and ensure that any sample is supervised by a healthcare professional, as this has been shown to give the best results of around 95% accuracy in the case of rapid antigen testing. That’s why these tests aren’t currently licensed for home use. That may change – but so, then, will accuracy…..unless you use a service like Breathe Assured where your home-delivered rapid antigen test is supervised online by a healthcare professional to ensure good technique, validate the result at 15 minutes and provide an instant certificate for travel, work or whatever you need.
But as we start to get back to work, travel and leisure, and understand that living with Covid is likely to be long-term, regular rapid antigen testing will help to reduce spread and add reassurance.
Read more of the science here.