How reliable are at-home COVID-19 tests?



The FDA-authorized COVID home test kits for identifying SARS-CoV-2 infection typically employ either isothermal nucleic acid amplification or antigen detection. Each test has benefits and disadvantages in terms of sensitivity and specificity, cost, results reporting, and results from turnaround time. 

These tests yield reliable positive findings for symptomatic persons in clinical investigations but less accurate negative results. There are also questions about the reliability of positive findings in asymptomatic persons. These considerations affect their clinical interpretation and use. Throughout theCOVID-19 pandemic, identifying persons infected with the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) has become a priority.This generated a public health need for quick, accurate, and widely accessible COVID-19 testing. 

However, there have been significantand continuing difficulties in getting the requisite testing supplies to meet demand, necessitating testing restrictions. FDA’s latest authorization for emergency use of COVID-19 tests that may be completed at home, like home PCR tests, will significantly increase the number of persons who can acquire a test and receive the findings immediately.

Notably, home tests for COVID-19, which are extremely simple to administer and interpret, provide findings within 15 to 30 minutes. Before, patients had to wait several days for findings from commercial reference labs. In addition, numerous smartphone applications record the results of particular home COVID-19 testing and offer waysfor people to report data to public health agencies. Given the significance of public health initiatives to combat this pandemic, this reporting functionality became a game-changer for COVID-19 home testing. 

Apart from allowing consumers to test themselves without visiting a healthcare centre, home COVID-19 testing also preserves personal protective equipment. When a potentially infected person visits a facility, there is always a risk that the virus will be transmitted to patients, visitors, and the healthcare professionals who must get the samples. This allows the personal protection equipment to be used elsewhere.

Several key considerations surround the usage and interpretation of the COVID-19 home test. The collection of a high-quality specimen and the performance of the test are the two most important. Manufacturersusually provide visual aids, videos, or online instructions to help users with specimen collection and comprehension of test performance. Anyone conducting these tests must read and adhere to the manufacturer’s instructions. Regardless of the test, whether conducted at home or in a laboratory, a specimen of poor quality often yields flawed findings.

To know more about how reliable at-home COVID-19 tests are, read the infographic below from Harley Medic International.



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