As COVID cases decline, mask mandates end, and the vaccine becomes more widely available beyond at-risk groups, COVID-19 testing gets less attention as a critical health tool. But COVID testing is still entirely necessary, and it will continue to be needed to detect new strains of the virus and prevent unheeded outbreaks.
Now that the general population is getting tested less frequently, it has become more difficult to stay up-to-date on testing developments. So what types of testing are available, how easy is it to get a test? And what is the best approach for you if you require testing?
While our focus has been drawn towards vaccines and getting back to a new normal, testing continues to be relevant and its processes have changed.
Today you can walk out of a local pharmacy with a verified COVID test that you can administer yourself and have an accurate reading within several minutes. Or if the trip to the pharmacy is too far, you could have an FDA approved at-home COVID test shipped to your doorstep overnight. A far cry from a time when we waited in drive-through lines and paid for a limited test. But are these at-home tests as accurate?
There are several different types of COVID tests available to detect the virus. Molecular diagnostic tests are one of the main types, and nasal swabs are used to try to identify genetic material of the virus within a patient. Molecular tests require analysis from a lab, which is why it takes longer to get results. But the test is also more accurate—especially if taken within five days of symptoms.
Antigen tests also try to detect evidence of COVID, but it looks for a specific protein that represents the virus in your system, and this can be determined within minutes. The at-home rapid COVID test kit you bring home will be an antigen, and that means it could be less accurate than a molecular diagnostic test.
The goal of increasing the amount of COVID testing was originally a way to combat the virus: test as many people as possible to identify contagious people in order to quarantine them and stop the spread. For this purpose, testing needed to be easy to complete and easy to obtain. Hence, the development of at-home specimen collecting and testing.
What is a self-collection test for COVID19, anyway? Any rapid at-home test will be an antigen test, and it will require a nasal swab. When you purchase a testing kit online or at a local pharmacy that’s designed to be used at home, you will be required to “self-collect” a sample from your nasal passage. These tests are used to determine whether or not you currently have COVID, and the CDC offers guidance on how to administer these tests correctly at home.
Other test kits require you submit your sample to a testing location—some even on the same day. These types of tests are molecular and require laboratory analysis, so you are required to submit those samples through the mail, which invites potential delay or even loss. Unfortunately, the most accurate at-home testing provides the most room for error.
You can buy rapid COVID test kits online or at your local pharmacy. To date, the FDA has authorized ten different at-home COVID tests. These are easily accessible and fairly affordable. While they can be accurate, there are downsides, including the fact that the chances of error increase without the help of a trained, qualified practitioner. Some samples can be rejected for multiple reasons, including not sealing the sample completely.
It’s easy to forget a time not long ago when getting tested for COVID was a difficult, and often expensive process. Now, you can at least get preliminary results from an at-home test. But we still need to be able to rely on testing centers like BioCollections Worldwide who specialize in testing for the most accurate readings and advice.
For over twenty years we have been providing the front line of developing accurate testing and were already developing COVID tests prior to the pandemic, understanding its potential. With several locations in the US and more affiliates and subsidiaries internationally, we look to provide exceptional testing wherever they’re located.