Result in 15 Minutes: Covid antigen rapid tests

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by Hector Pascua with reports from news agencies and krone.at

Until the result of a coronavirus test, a so-called PCR test, is available, those affected often have to be patient. Since the laboratories are overloaded, this can currently take up to three days or even longer. In view of the forthcoming flu season, it would be important to know as soon as possible whether a person is suffering from Covid-19 or influenza. This could be remedied by new rapid antigen tests that provide results within 15 minutes.
The PCR test procedures would take up too much time and personnel, criticized SPÖ boss Pamela Rendi-Wagner on late Sunday evening in the ORF program “Im Zentrum” and therefore demanded a “new rapid test strategy for Austria”. The leading epidemiologist of the Agency for Food Security (AGES), Daniela Schmid, agreed with her: “Antigen rapid tests are the key to acceleration.” The aim is to shorten the time that elapses between the identification of an infection and the isolation of those affected and contact tracing.

Roche launches 15-minute rapid test
When the annual flu season begins, such rapid tests would be a good way to maintain a reasonably normal school routine. The Swiss pharmaceutical company Roche announced earlier this month that it will launch such a rapid corona antigen test. The test kit is intended to provide convenient use for healthcare professionals and will be available in Europe by the end of September.
According to the company, the rapid antigen test can be performed with a nasopharyngeal swab without any laboratory infrastructure and is characterized by high reliability. According to Roche, 40 million rapid tests will be available each month when the test is launched. This capacity will more than double by the end of this year, it was said.

For the antigen test, medical personnel take a swab from the mouth or nasopharynx. This is enriched in a buffer solution and then transferred to the test cassette (top right in the picture). The result can then be read – just like a pregnancy test.

Not quite as accurate, but significantly cheaper
However, experts say that the rapid antigen tests are not quite as accurate as the standardized PCR tests. “If a person has a low viral load in the throat, it is easier to overlook the virus than with a PCR test,” knows microbiologist Michael Wagner from the University of Vienna, for example. One advantage of the rapid antigen test, however, is that it costs only a fraction of the tests that have been used most often up to now and that have to be evaluated in the laboratory.

Especially for tests in schools, rapid antigen tests could prove to be extremely useful. PCR tests are more accurate, but it takes time to get the results – that’s how long infected students can infect others. Although the rapid antigen test is not quite as accurate, experts say that if it is effective, the results are immediately known.

  • Picture: roche.de
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