Do home COVID tests still work?

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BA.5 is leading to another wave of COVID-19 cases, as well as an increase in hospitalizations. The subvariant of omicron it is highly contagious and causes more infections in people who have already had COVID-19, including during previous omicron waves.

But they are quick tests at home we began to rely on (and even received will be delivered to our home) capable of detecting BA.5?

Although new research is coming out and may prove that BA.5 reduces the effectiveness of some tests in identifying positive COVID-19 cases, the rapid tests seem to be doing their job. Here’s what you need to know.

How do home COVID tests work?

Home tests for COVID-19 are usually rapid antigen tests that work by detecting the proteins of the coronavirus. If there is protein in your nasal swab, your test will show a second line and you should consider yourself positive and contagious for COVID-19. This is similar to how a home pregnancy test works, but pregnancy tests detect the presence of a hormone instead of a virus. (And pregnancy, of course, is not contagious.)

“Positive results remain very accurate for these tests, but false negatives can still occur,” said Shaili Gandhi, SingleCare’s vice president of pharmacy, in an email. This is because the rapid test requires more virus to test positive than the highly sensitive PCR or laboratory tests. For example, a fully vaccinated and unvaccinated person may have a very low viral load (small amount of virus) and this may result in a negative test even if they have COVID-19. If so, you may need a laboratory PCR test before you can confirm COVID-19. (This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use a home test if you’re stressed, but more on that below.)

Read more: Put on that cloth mask. These are the best masks to help you stay away from COVID

Many of us are familiar with the swab, dip, twist and drip method of testing for COVID-19.

Tan Ming Tung/Getty Images

Do home tests work against BA.5? When is the best time to test?

As Gandhi said, research into BA.5 is ongoing, including how effective the tests are at detecting it. But how well at-home COVID-19 tests work may have less to do with the subvariant and more to do with testing.

You may test positive for COVID-19 when you have symptoms. Likewise, people with no symptoms or someone with mild symptoms are more likely to have a false negative than someone with more symptoms.

“Under these conditions, home tests are just as effective as other options in detecting microbe,” Sandra Adams, professor of biology and virologist at Montclair State University, told New Jersey Advance Media.

“Accuracy varies depending on when the tests are taken,” he added.

Gandhi’s “good rule of thumb” is to take at least two tests, with a day or two between tests. You should also follow the instructions on whatever box you have, which usually comes as a two-test kit, and stay up-to-date on the US Food and Drug Administration’s expiration dates on some home tests.

And, if home tests are found to be ineffective against BA.5, the FDA will withdraw approval for that test.

“The FDA knows if there are concerns about efficacy because they monitor all the authorized trials and scientific evidence over a period of time when they need to make a change,” said Dr. International SOS regional medical director Mark Fisher said in an email.

What is the incubation period of BA.5?

At the start of the outbreak last December, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention changed quarantine guidelines based on the understanding that people are most contagious with COVID-19 in the day or two before symptoms appear. three days later.

While some studies have shown that BA.5 does not have a different incubation period than other versions of COVID-19, some people are reporting that they have tested positive for longer, Gandhi notes. Dr. Eric Topol, a professor of molecular medicine at Scripps Research, noted in a report earlier this month that changes in BA.5 that make it easier to enter cells may explain why some people take longer to test negative.

“For now, although this new option is still difficult, I recommend trying several times with home tests if symptoms persist [and you’re still testing negative]Get a PCR test from your pharmacy or doctor,” Gandhi said.

And, unfortunately, a positive home rapid test result means you have COVID-19. So consider yourself contagious and follow along CDC guidelines for isolation and masking.

Edit 8:03am PT Jul 26: The spelling of Shaili Gandhi’s surname has been corrected.

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have about a medical condition or health goals.

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