How reliable are home COVID-19 tests?
The second wave of winter weather has impacted health care providers’ plans. This can make people wonder about home testing options.
CHARLOTTE, NC — Freezing temperatures and winter conditions have hit the Charlotte area again, forcing health care providers to again change their plans for COVID-19 testing. StarMed Healthcare kept only four sites open on Saturday, but with delayed starts and early closings.
People were still arriving, with cars covered in snow and the heat blowing inside. They showed up by the dozens.
This has led many people to turn to home testing, but even these are rare. Medical correspondent Dr Sujatha Reddy said the use of home tests should be done with discretion.
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“If you have someone with symptoms in a household or was at an event where someone tested positive, it makes sense to test that person,” she said.
If one person in a family tests positive, then Reddy advised to go ahead and test the whole family. But if the test is negative, wait and test that person again.
“With the home test, you can get a false negative,” she acknowledged.
Dr. MG Finn, James A. Carlos Family Chair in Pediatric Technology at Georgia Tech, said the omicron variant may be able to evade detection by home kits.
“There’s a slightly higher chance that these kinds of tests won’t pick up the new variant,” he said.
Finn explained why: rapid antigen tests are able to lock onto specific proteins on the outer envelope of the virus in order to detect it. However, variants like the omicron may have altered proteins, meaning antigen tests may be able to evade detection.
“If I grab this coffee cup – if this coffee cup were to change shape and become a mug and my hands were too small, my hands might not be able to grab it as well,” he said. declared. “And that’s what a change in variant does to an antigen test.”
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Antigen test makers are now taking this into account, using the latest information on coronavirus variants to release new kits. However, it’s not an instant process, Finn warned.
“It takes time to spread through the trading system to make them available,” he said.
Still, Finn said the rapid tests can be used as a guide. The PCR test, however, remains the gold standard.
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