Rapid Antigen Tests

What is an antigen test? Why isn’t everybody using them?

COVID rapid antigen test.
What is a rapid antigen test? (Science, 09.16.20)

This article explains the different types of COVID tests and their pros and cons.

Abbott Binax NOW antigen test.
Information about Abbott’s
BinaxNOW antigen test

This test may be the most widely used rapid antigen test in the US. The company validated it for use in people within 7 days of the onset of COVID symptoms, but it’s being widely used as a screening test for folks without symptoms. Whether that’s a good idea or not depends on a lot of factors.

Missing puzzle piece. Image by Hebi B. from Pixabay.
Why is this the only recent article about rapid antigen tests? (The Atlantic, 01.13.21)

Because nobody’s been keeping track of the results from them.

The article that started it all (The Atlantic, 08.14.20)

If you read only one article on this site, read this one. It’s why I still believe rapid antigen tests will be what finally gets us out of this mess.

FDA logo.
Which antigen tests have EUAs?

The official FDA list. (NB: the Lucira test isn’t an antigen test, but it is rapid, so it’s on this list.)

CDC logo.
FDA Interim Guidance for Rapid Antigen Testing

The official word on these tests from the CDC.

University of North Carolina logo.
How to Interpret and Respond
To Antigen Tests

Flowchart from the clinical microbiology lab at the University of North Carolina.

Test sensitivity is secondary to frequency and turnaround time for COVID-19 surveillance

This preprint article from June 2020 uses modeling to show that you can do effective surveillance with less-sensitive tests (like rapid antigen tests) as long as you test frequently and can report the results of the tests quickly. According to this article, you can’t get PCR test results back quickly enough to prevent outbreaks.

Image by Pete Linforth from Pixabay
Individuals who test negative
on rapid antigen tests but positive on PCR tests may not
be infectious

A study of Abbott’s Panbio test (not available in the US). Also showed that the test is less sensitive in kids than it is in adults. From Clinical Microbiology and Infection, 11.12.20.

More Recent Lay Press on Antigen Testing

WBUR, 10/2/20

RapidTests.org

An all-volunteer group started by Michael Mina, assistant professor of epidemiology at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Explains in lay terms how ubiquitous rapid testing could help overcome the pandemic, and how you can help make it happen.


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