Fed up with long queues? Go for COVID-19 self-test kits

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  • PCR tests are considered to be the most accurate ones for COVID-19 diagnosis; however, they take time to give results.
  • Rapid antigen test kits use nasal swab or saliva as samples and give results in around 20 minutes.
  • One should only use government-approved rapid antigen test kits.
  • Results from rapid antigen test kits should be confirmed by a PCR test.

Caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), COVID-19 has been infecting populations across the world. Till date, 23.8 crore infection cases have been reported globally. Early detection via COVID-tests and effective care and precautions have been a fundamental key to curb its spread.

Rapid antigen test kits are a convenient way to test COVID-19. They help people avoid long queues at COVID-19 testing sites and are faster than the traditional Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) tests. However, a PCR test is still the most accurate and reliable test to detect and diagnose COVID-19. A nasal swab or saliva sample is used in these tests which gives results in just 20 minutes.

Do read: What is Rapid Antigen Testing? All you should know about it

Explained: What happens during a COVID-19 PCR test?

The Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test is a molecular test that looks for genetic material (ribonucleic acid or RNA) of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, in the specimen obtained from nasal or oral swab.

Small amounts of RNA from specimens are amplified into deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), which is duplicated until SARS-CoV-2 is detectable if present, using PCR technique. Since its approval in February 2020, the PCR test has been one of the most accurate and trustworthy tests for diagnosing COVID-19.

Rapid antigen self-tests approved by the Australian Government

Sensitivity level for each test was carried out by comparing the accuracy of test with a standard Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction Test (RT PCR)

  • Acceptable sensitivity - clinical sensitivity greater than 80% PPA (positive percent agreement)
  • High sensitivity - clinical sensitivity greater than 90% PPA
  • Very high sensitivity - clinical sensitivity greater than 95% PPA

However, self-test kits are not as accurate as PCR tests and following things should be done based on your test results:

  • In case you get a positive result, you must go to have PCR test in a testing centre as soon as possible. This will confirm the result.
  • If the test is negative but you are unwell, still you should go to a testing site for PCR test. This will reassure if your symptoms are related to COVID-19 or not.

The TGA has approved the following COVID-19 self-test kits for supply in Australia.

Also read: When will a COVID-19 vaccine be available for adolescent under 12 year

Bottom line

Although rapid antigen test kits save a lot of time, the results should be confirmed by following them up with a PCR test. Before using the self-test kits, be careful to read the instructions properly. It should also be kept in mind that one should use only government-approved self-test kits to ensure their safety and wellbeing.



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