The timing of rapid tests at home and the sampling method of the tests can affect the accuracy of the results.
Earlier this month, the White House announced that it would invest $ 1 billion to make the COVID-19 test available to Americans at home. This is in addition to the $ 2 billion that the Biden administration said it would allocate to home testing in September.
With millions more home tests expected to be available in the coming months, viewers sent a text message to the VERIFY team asking about the accuracy of rapid home tests.
Is the COVID-19 rapid test at home as accurate as the rapid test performed at the inspection site?
Source of information
Yes, the COVID-19 rapid test at home is as accurate as the rapid test performed at the inspection site.
What we found
There are two types of COVID-19 tests that can be run at home and approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
One is a molecular test, more commonly known as a PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test. According to the Mayo Clinic, these tests detect the genetic material for the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
PCR tests are also available in the field, are highly accurate, and are considered the “gold standard,” said Dr. Saralin Mark, COVID-19 leader of the American Association of Medical Women. However, home PCR testing requires taking a sample, mailing it to the lab for testing, and waiting a few days for results.
Another type of home test that is the focus of viewers’ questions is the rapid antigen test. The Mayo Clinic states that antigen testing detects certain proteins of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
The results of these tests can be provided in minutes instead of days. However, according to the Cleveland Clinic, rapid antigen tests offered both at home and in the clinic are less accurate than PCR tests.
Mark states that as the pandemic continues, the accuracy of rapid antigen testing will improve, with accuracy levels generally in the 80% to 90% range.
“Over time, these quick tests have become much more accurate,” she said. “It’s certainly easy and you can get the results back relatively quickly.”
The FDA website has a list of approved home exams.
According to clinical trials, one of the approved home tests, the QuickVue home OTC COVID-19 test, has an 83% chance of getting a correct positive result and a 99% chance of getting a correct negative result compared to a PCR test. Was obtained. Studies submitted to the FDA. The CareStart COVID-19 Antigen Home Test has a probability of at least 87% positive and at least 98% correct negative in clinical trials. The Flowflex COVID-19 Antigen Home Test, which the FDA approved for emergency use on October 4, has a 93% chance of showing the correct positive result and a 100% chance of showing the correct negative result in clinical trials.
According to the FDA, most home antigen tests are allowed to be continuous. That is, a person is tested more than once in a few days. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), this testing strategy helps ensure that the test results are accurate.
“By testing more often, we can detect COVID-19 more quickly and reduce the spread of the infection,” says the CDC.
Mark said antigen testing tends to be more accurate if done 3-5 days after exposure to COVID-19. Also, because the viral load is likely to be high, the accuracy of the test is usually higher for symptomatic treatment.
“The test can be very accurate if done perfectly in the right time frame,” she said.
Mark advised people to follow the instructions provided in the home test to ensure the most accurate results possible.
“The important point here is that the test is as good as taking a sample,” she said. “Therefore, if you are not sampling correctly and the sample process is incorrect, you may receive inaccurate results.”
Nebraska medicine says quick tests are useful, but they are not perfect. People can talk to their doctor to determine if they need to see the results of a quick test at home with a more accurate PCR test.
Other articles on VERIFY: Yes, delta variants can be detected by genomic sequencing, but it’s not a test taken at the clinic
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