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4:13 PM, Feb 27, 2020

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Examining New COVID Tests And How They Work

Posted at 8:14 AM, Sep 19, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-19 08:14:58-04

LANSING, Mich. — Everything from throat swabs and saliva tests to breathalyzers are potential options for new COVID tests. The federal government has ordered 150-million rapid anti-gen tests to help identify cases in places like schools and disaster zones. Ash-Har Quraishi is looking into how these tests work.

Six months into the global pandemic and experts say we still need better and more frequent testing.

Supply chain bottlenecks, long turnaround times and the looming flu season have many pharmaceuticals scrambling for a better test.

Dr. Emily Landon – infectious disease specialist says “there's been a great push and a lot of innovation has gone into developing new tests that might be able to be used in different scenarios.”

John Hacket Jr. is the Vice President of Applied Research and Technology at Abbott Laboratories. He says their sixth iteration of the COVID 19 test known as “Binax Now”, it is a compact credit card sized rapid test similar to a home pregnancy test.

“You are receiving a nasal swab and then that swab is directly inserted into the card and there's a small pouch there that it's inserted into six drops of a buffer had been placed there prior to putting in the swab.”

Though it does require a healthcare worker to administer, no specialty lab equipment is needed to process the antigen test. Results are available in about 15 minutes. The cost - five dollars a piece.

Hackett Jr. explains “so in 15 minutes you can look at the front of this test and if you see a single line that would be the control line and if there's two lines that would indicate that the individual is positive for sars-cov-2."

The test was granted emergency use authorization by the FDA. it includes an app that allows people who test negative to display a temporary digital health pass -for quick screening.

The trump administration quickly bought up 150 million tests - most of Abbott’s supply, a deal reportedly worth more than $750 million dollars.

Officials say they are already beginning to deploy the tests to states, nursing homes, schools and areas hit hard by recent natural disasters.

Dr. Emily Landon, an Epidemiologist and Infectious Disease Specialist at University of Chicago Medicine shares that “these antigen tests however are fast and cheap, and it can be done really easily.”

Dr. Landon says though, helpful in some scenarios - quick antigen tests like this can be less accurate and have a high false positive rate.

“these tests aren't perfect and some of you have been in that situation with strep throat where you find that even if the test is negative that they send off a culture afterwards to make absolutely certain that you don't have strep throat and these tests are kind of similar.”

Still, experts say having a variety of testing options is beneficial. but the gold standard of accuracy remains – the deep nasopharyngeal swab tests processed in a lab.

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