Health

Antigen Test for Coronavirus Can Do More Harm than Good

antigen test for coronavirus
Image: Flickr/NIAID Integrated Research Facility (IRF) i

Since the end of the lockdown and reopening of businesses, many people have continued to doing everyday activities they did prior to the start of the pandemic even though the risk of contracting the infection is still very high. While doing so, some people may opt for the ‘fast’ antigen test for coronavirus before conducting an event or going to one to ensure security and safety.

Taking such precautionary measures is a good thing but experts say that the cheaper and faster antigen tests are not as reliable as many people assume, especially in comparison with the standard polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests for coronavirus.

An example of the differences between the accuracy of the testing can be that of the governor of the state of Ohio, Mike DeWine, who took an antigen test before attending a meeting with the president of the US, Donald Trump.

According to the first test results, the governor had contracted the virus. However, after being tested again twice using the PCR standard tests, it was revealed that the previous results were false and the governor did not have the infection.

This is one of the many examples of false-positive and false negatives using fast testing for coronavirus. Earlier on, many people who took antigen tests in Manchester, Vermont tested positive for the infection. However, the PCR tests conducted by Vermont’s Department of Health confirmed that most of the results were false positives.

Read also: Cinemas Maybe the New Coronavirus Hotspots 

In fact, only four out of the sixty-five people who were previously suspected of having the coronavirus infection actually had it. In addition to giving false positives, the test results may be false negatives, which is why antigen testing for coronavirus is unreliable.

Though none of the tests are one hundred percent accurate, fast testing is particularly prone to error than others. With many people returning to offices, schools, and heading back to public spaces, there is a higher chance of many people getting inaccurate results from antigen testing.

According to a report, at least fifty percent of the negative results deduced using antigen testing are false, which is why many states including Vermont consider a case positive only when it has been confirmed using standard PCR testing.

Know more about tests for coronavirus here. 

The primary problem with testing procedures other than antigen testing is that they can take much longer in comparison. An antigen test can be done in no more than fifteen minutes while results from other results may take up to a week to come.

Instead of waiting, people just opt for an antigen test for coronavirus especially when they have to attend an event or a gathering. With a big number of false negatives, these tests can help in providing a false sense of security and instead aid coronavirus transmission.

So, should people not go for an antigen test yet? For now, health experts state that testing is mandatory. Even if it is unreliable, it is better to get tested until there is a solution to decentralize testing and make PCR more accessible, as doing so is better than not doing anything at all

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Abeera I. Kazmi

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