First Antigen Test

April 2, 2021
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What to know about a first-of-its-kind quick test for COVID-19.

What To Know

FDA approved first “antigen test” for COVID-19.

Test looks for “fragments of proteins found on or within the virus” (FDA).

Uses a nasal swab and machines already available in many doctor’s offices.

Results in 15 minutes.

“…positive results from antigen tests are highly accurate, but there is a higher chance of false negatives, so negative results do not rule out infection.”

The FDA advises using an additional test (PCR test) follow negative results. PCR tests read the genetic material of the virus. While rapid PCR tests exist, they can be more expensive, complex and take longer to get results. Bottom Line: Antigen tests can quickly confirm positive cases – negative results need subsequent testing.

Context & Concerns

  • The World Health Organization advised against antigen tests in early April.
  • WHO: Significant chance for false negatives: “half or more of COVID-19 infected patients might be missed by such tests, depending on the group of patients tested.”
  • WHO: Antigen tests *could be* important “triage tests” to rapidly identify patients likely to have COVID.

Can You Get Tested?

The FDA says this is hopefully the first of many antigen tests.

Antigen tests are widely used for flu and strep.

However, some doctors may still want to send you to test site. Not all offices will be able to follow protocols required for administering a COVID-19 test (ex: full protective gear for each & every test).

COVID-19 Test: Cheat Sheet

3 main types of COVID-19 tests.

  • Antigen: nasal swab test measures for proteins attached to the virus during an active infection (someone sick).
  • PCR (polymerase chain reaction): often a nasal swab test for genetic fingerprint of COVID-19 during an active infection.
  • Antibody: blood tests looking for the presence of an immune response to COVID-19 (AFTER exposure to COVID).

Fmr. FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb told the Washington Post: “We need these kinds of tests…This is a nice complement to the overall testing platform in this country.” In the past, as testing availability increases, infection numbers *do* rise but mortality rates go down. It's TBD if this will happen with COVID-19.

FDA announcement: CLICK HERE


Covid-19 Testing Matters: Why YOU matter More. WATCH HERE

FDA Approves First At Home Test: READ HERE

by Jenna Lee,