GlobalData: Mass home testing for Covid-19 isn’t without its risks

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Unfettered access to rapid and safe Covid-19 tests will be one of the most critical factors in reducing the spread of the disease. Governments all around the globe are hoping to gain access to an assay which can be deployed effectively and swiftly throughout the healthcare system, and home testing is likely to play a key role in this deployment.

If a test is given out to large swathes of the population then it’s vital that it can stand up to scrutiny. Even then, mass home testing isn’t without its risks. So far, the tests which have dominated the discussion around screening for Covid-19 have been polymerize chain reaction (PCR) tests. Considering their current market dominance, it’s difficult for PCR test to be effectively repurposed for home use. PCR tests are a type of antigen test, meaning they work by tracing the SARS-CoV-2 virus which causes Covid-19 directly. They do this through swabs taken deep inside the nasal cavity, and have to undergo specialist analysis in a laboratory to yield results. Antibody tests are much easier to self-administer than PCR tests. Many use blood samples, which can be collected at home with a simple finger-prick device. Other Covid-19 home antibody tests in development describe a ‘pregnancy test’ style device the blood sample can be distributed into, which will provide a result within a few minutes and eliminate the need for lab testing. Right now, it seems that there’s no watertight option. PCR tests are too difficult to self-administer and while using an antibody test is more straightforward, it won’t be as effective at detecting early stage infections. The best route for mass home testing may therefore be to distribute some kind of home-appropriate antigen test alongside an antibody test, allowing both active and historic infections to be established simultaneously throughout the population. Many firms are at work on a test which could be deployed at home, and the FDA has now approved LapCorp's Pixel by LabCorp COVID-19 Test home collection kit. Even if solutions like these do manage to prove their efficacy, whether global governments will have the resources to supply them at a large scale or the will to do so remains to be seen.”

Chloe Kent, Medical Writer at GlobalData

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