Globally, healthcare systems and governments are under pressure to improve their testing capabilities to manage the spread COVID-19. Although molecular testing is the most reliable in terms of accuracy and scale, it can be difficult to scale up to pandemic levels. Molecular testing must be supplemented by other solutions that are more easily produced and distributed in mass quantities to address global needs. This gap can be filled by antigen tests. They can be easily deployed in congregate settings or communities where the virus is spreading and provide fast and useful results.
This information suggests that a significant portion of COVID-19-infected patients may be missed by these tests depending on which group of patients is being tested. These assumptions need to be further investigated in order to confirm their accuracy. False-positive results, which is a test that shows a person has COVID-19 infection, could also occur if the antibody on the test strip recognizes antigens from viruses other than COVID-19. This includes human coronaviruses, which cause the common cold. The antigen detection tests under development or commercially available could be used to quickly identify patients most likely to have COVID-19. This would reduce or eliminate the need for costly molecular confirmation testing.
Although tests for coronavirus disease detection are being developed at an incredible rate, there is still a shortage of these tests. Antigen-based viral testing, which detects fragments of proteins within or on the virus, is one of the best ways of increasing capacity.
What is a rapid test for antigen? How does it compare with other testing options? First, an antigen is a molecule such as a protein that is foreign to your body. It can cause your immune system to produce antibodies to it. The rapid antigen test detects foreign proteins that may be structural or functional components of pathogens and is therefore very specific.
Antigen tests provide a quantitative “yes/no” answer to the question of whether the pathogen is present in the patient’s sample. If the target antigen is found in sufficient quantities in the sample, it will bind to specific antibodies to produce a positive result.
Antigen tests aren’t a new concept. These tests have been around for many years and provide healthcare professionals with an easy way to diagnose medical conditions such as strep throat and the flu from the point-of-care in just minutes.
There are many benefits to a rapid antigen test. SARS-CoV-2 antigen tests can be used in combination with molecular testing or as an alternative. They can provide solutions to one of our biggest problems: scale. These tests are inexpensive and can help healthcare systems fight COVID-19 by increasing testing at the point-of-care as well as in the laboratory.