As the number of COVID-19 cases continues to increase every day, health officials are concerned that the situation is soon to be out of control, and they worry about the public health system consequences. And with vaccine manufacturing being slower than what many experts had hoped, the urge to take action in an attempt to stop the spreading has become more important. As experts worldwide try to determine the best way to contain the virus as it evolves, increased screening has been reinforced. With the growing number of studies on the subject, this method could be more efficient than diagnostic testing, which is the method that has been used so far.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, the focus has been made on the accuracy of the results provided by the testing. In Canada, for example, the PCR Test, which is in the Viral RNA Test family, has been used to identify the COVID-19 cases. With a high sensitivity rate (the higher the rate, the less chance of creating false negatives), the test is near perfect. However, it usually takes between 24 to 48 hours for someone to receive his test result, period during which the individual is free to come and go as he pleases. This delay can mainly be attributed to the test complexity which has to be treated in a laboratory that requires a specific professional equipment. This method is also somewhat expensive with a cost between 100 and 200 USD per test. However, as accurate as the results might be, the method doesn’t seem to prevent spreading the virus as the number of cases is still increasing.
As for the United States, due to the increasing number of COVID-19 cases over the past few months, a new type of testing has recently been approved in an attempt to stop the spreading. The Antigen Test that consists in placing a nasal swab or a drop of fluid on a portable analyzer, delivers a positive or a negative test result to your smartphone within 20 minutes. Although less accurate than the PCR test, studies have shown that the accuracy of the Antigen Test is almost as good.
This type of testing goes along with the “Screening Philosophy” that is now privileged in the USA, which focuses on testing a much larger part of the population rather than focusing on the results’ accuracy. The Antigen Test is also a great resource to help identify people that are in the asymptomatic group.
The Antigen Test is also effective as it doesn’t require specific equipment and can be done at any point of care across the country, which makes it easy to screen a large amount of people in a short period of time. Since it only takes up to 20 minutes before getting the results, the Antigen Test can prevent patients, that are tested positive, to go back home in what is a critical period while waiting for the result and spread the virus while waiting for an answer to their test. In that way, contacts can be traced earlier, and quarantine or self-isolation can start sooner to help stop the transmission of COVID-19. This test is also affordable, with prices usually varying between 25 to 50 USD.
In the next couple of months, it’ll be interesting to see which method is more effective as well as if other countries will follow the movement and adopt the “Screening Philosophy” in an attempt to stop spreading the virus.