Study: Abbott BinaxNOW Rapid Tests Perform Similarly with Omicron as Prior Variants | Health News

The widely used Abbott BinaxNOW antigen coronavirus test can detect the majority of omicron cases in people with high levels of the virus, with performance similar to that seen with previous variants, a new study has found.

The research comes as concerns have been raised in recent weeks about the accuracy of rapid tests. The Food and Drug Administration previously noted that some rapid coronavirus tests may be less sensitive to the omicron variant, which is the dominant strain circulating in the United States.

The study, which was not peer-reviewed, involved more than 700 people who used a walk-in testing site in San Francisco in early January. It found that rapid tests detected 95% of infections in people with a high viral load.

The researchers wrote that the study “confirms that the BinaxNOW rapid antigen test detects omicron with similar sensitivity to that seen for previous variants.”

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Still, the study found that rapid tests missed about 35% of all coronavirus cases confirmed by PCR tests with any level of viral load.

Researchers suggest repeat testing be done for people who initially test negative on rapid tests, saying “people who have low levels of virus detectable by PCR but no antigen test may either be on the rise. , that is to say the decrease ”of their infection.

As late as Tuesday, Acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock reiterated her concerns about rapid tests and the omicron variant during a Senate hearing.

“We think everyone detects omicron,” she said of the rapid home tests. “We just think they’re a little less sensitive than they were to some of the previous variations.”

A recent small study found that home antigenic coronavirus tests could miss omicron cases “for several days” while a person is infected.

The study, which was also not peer-reviewed, found that, on average, it took three days after a person’s first positive PCR test for the rapid antigen test to also show a positive result. He found four cases in which individuals passed the virus on to others while remaining negative on rapid tests.

But that doesn’t mean rapid tests don’t work. The study found that in all cases, the rapid tests ultimately came back positive – it took longer than with the PCR tests.

PCR tests, which can detect even traces of viruses, have long been considered the “gold standard” for coronavirus testing. But it can take days to get the lab results, while rapid tests can give results in just 15 minutes.

Experts say rapid tests are an important tool as the United States sees record coronavirus cases, but a testing shortage in the United States is preventing many from accessing tests at home. The Biden administration plans to send the first shipment of a total of 500 million COVID-19 tests directly to Americans later this month. Meanwhile, starting Saturday, private health insurers will be required to cover up to eight home COVID-19 tests per month under a policy announced by President Joe Biden last month.

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