Rapid test to detect COVID-19 in 15 minutes: why it can be key for emergency services

In approximately 15 minutes, the patient will be able to find out if they have COVID-19 (REUTERS / Ralph Orlowski)

In the search for new tools and processes that contribute to the early detection and reduction of infections generated by the COVID-19, different technological and scientific advances arise such as rapid antigen test. According to the infectious disease doctor Eduardo López (MN 37586), this test allows great benefits to the emergency services, which would allow quickly identify sprouts and contain the spread of contagions.

It is a lateral flow technology from a simple nasopharyngeal swab test, performed by a healthcare professional with a sterile swab, which offers results in approximately 15 minutes. “The test does not require any additional instruments or equipment, which makes it highly portable and can be used in a wide variety of health care settings in so-called points of care and detection,” says the head of the Department of Medicine at Hospital de Children Ricardo Gutiérrez.

Rapid antigen test detects protein nucleocápside del virus. This protein is found on the surface of the virus structure, so the presence of the virus is found much faster. Hence, your result resides in a few minutes. In contrast, the test PCR looks for the presence of genetic material of the virus. However, “the rapid test is not a substitute for PCR, but it is a very good alternative when faced with the need for a rapid diagnosis or when PCR diagnoses are not available ”, clarifies López. And he adds: “The Ministry of Health recognizes these methods with diagnostic criteria due to their high specificity when they are positive.”

It is a nasopharyngeal swab test performed by a health professional (REUTER / Sergio Pérez)

It is a nasopharyngeal swab test performed by a health professional (REUTER / Sergio Pérez)

As it requires a shorter response time, the rapid test is useful in emergency departments. This allows immediate decisions to be made on treatment and isolation measures for the patient and their direct contacts, avoiding greater risks of contagion. “By providing results quickly, the new test enables front-line healthcare workers to better manage cases by isolating patients to prevent further spread and starting treatment immediately. If widely distributed, this new test will transform our response to COVID ”, stated the Director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), Carissa F. Etienne, in one of the last releases of the institution.

One of the main advantages of the test is that a positive result does not require a confirmatory molecular test. That is, due to the characteristics of its operation under the prescribed conditions of use, When performing the qualitative detection of SARS-CoV-2 specific antigen (Ag), no other test is required for its confirmation.

According to the infectious disease doctor, scientific information and clinical studies indicate that tests with Antigen tests have a sensitivity greater than 90% and a specificity of 99.4% in people suspected of being exposed to COVID-19 or having symptoms in the past seven days.

The rapid antigen test (REUTERS / Juan Medina)

The rapid antigen test (REUTERS / Juan Medina)

As PAHO points out in its statement, “rapid antigen tests are much more accurate and determine if someone is currently infected, a big difference from previous rapid antibody tests, which can show when someone has had COVID-19, but they often give a negative result during the early stages of infection ”.

Currently, countries such as the United States, Canada, France, Germany, England, Belgium, Holland, Australia and Brazil apply the tool at points of careas it has been designed with safety features in order to reduce the risk of contamination by the virus while the health professionals carry out the analysis. The most reliable antigen tests have been homologated and approved by the European Community and / or are on the list of prequalified by the World Health Organization.

In Argentina, according to López, rapid antigen tests have been approved by the ANMAT and comply with quality standards under ISO, IRAM and FDA regulations.

In this way, the tool would make it possible to redirect health resources towards the most required areas in order to gain efficiency in the face of the multiplicity of diagnoses and treatments that must be kept in force in the context of the pandemic. Saving time in obtaining test results is essential to more accurately assess the number of cases that arise in real time, speeding up the implementation of appropriate health policies, and in particular, to establish possible additional preventive measures and epidemiological fences .

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