US turns to antigen tests to increase COVID-19 testing capacity

Following the news that the US is turning towards COVID-19 antigen tests to control the second wave, which can be performed in a doctor’s office at the point-of-care (POC);

Dara Lo, Medical Device Analyst at GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company, offers her view:

“Each category of diagnostic test has its own unique role in the fight against COVID-19. PCR tests can be incredibly accurate, but running the tests and analyzing the results take time. One of the main advantages of an antigen test is the speed, which can provide results in minutes.

In the context of COVID-19, a lot of tests in the pipeline are POC antigen tests, and the push for that is because of the lack of lab capacity. Supply chain disruptions have delayed/decreased testing. The most needed items are commercially available kits, platform-specific laboratory consumables, and trained personnel. The majority of these supply chain interruptions that laboratories are experiencing include PCR testing platforms, PCR testing kits, and PCR reagents, swabs. Since antigen tests do not require specialized lab equipment or personnel, antigen tests would alleviate some of the strain being felt due to shortages associated with PCR tests, and significantly increase COVID-19 testing capacity.

The COVID-19 testing market is going to change significantly. There will be a decline in PCR tests, as these switch to confirmatory testing and patient monitoring testing. Antigen tests can be performed at the POC, meaning patients can receive a test result in near real-time. However, there is a trade-off between speed and accuracy, and while positive results from antigen tests are highly accurate, there is a higher chance of false negative results. A negative result from an antigen test does not rule out infection. The FDA recommends using the more sensitive PCR-based COVID-19 test for individuals who test negative with antigen tests, but appear symptomatic.”

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