As cases of the omicron variant continue to increase (and potential new COVID variants continue to emerge), the guide to staying safe appears to be relatively straightforward: get a booster, isolate if you test positive, and take a COVID test if you have been exposed.
The latter, however, gets a bit confusing. Between the announcement of a shortage of home COVID tests and the release of controversial CDC quarantine guidelines (which do not call on people infected with COVID to test negatively before ending self-quarantine), determine how to get a test and when to take it gets more complicated. Now there seems to be some confusion around How? ‘Or’ What take a home COVID test.
Last week, new research emerged suggesting that COVID tests may not be very effective in detecting omicron infections. The small study of 29 people working in high-risk exposure environments found that participants were potentially infectious for days before a rapid antigen test (like Abbott BinaxNOW and Quidel QuickVue brands) came back positive for the drug. ‘omicron. In fact, it took an average of three days after study participants got a positive saliva-based PCR test for the infection to show up on a rapid test, as reported by SELF, which takes a sample. of the nose. The theory is that omicron could infect the throat and saliva first, before moving on to the nose, which means you could unknowingly spread the virus in the meantime if you only tested with a swab. nasal.
Naturally, some people took this information and started tweaking their home tests, taking the swab meant to take a sample from the nose and using it to swab their throat instead. The change even sparked a social media movement with the hashtag #SwabYourThroat, according to CNN.
So, is it bad? In the UK, certain rapid tests (also called lateral flow tests) are designed for this purpose in accordance with the National health services. The rapid tests available in the United States, however, are not. The majority of rapid tests authorized in the United States are designed to test a sample taken from a nasal swab (while a small number involve spitting into a test tube), for example CNN.
“The test is designed for the collection of samples they describe in the instructions, so any deviation from that, you won’t get the expected results,” Emily Volk, MD, president of the College of American Pathologists, Recount CNN. “You have to follow the test instructions. Otherwise, it is not valid.
The Food and Drug Administration and the CDC have also condemned the non-compliant throat swabs. “The FDA has noted safety concerns with self-collection of throat swabs because they are more complicated than nasal swabs,” an FDA spokesperson told CNN. « If used incorrectly, [they] may cause harm to the patient. The CDC recommends that throat swabs be taken by a qualified healthcare professional. «
As scientists and test manufacturers collect more data, it is possible that these recommendations will change and the throat swab will become a reliable way to use a home test. But for now, stick to your home test instructions and prioritize a PCR test if you’re worried about false negatives.