By Ben Popken, Vicky Nguyen and Lauren Dunn – NBC News
Three new all-home COVID-19 tests, which promise to deliver results in minutes, are coming to market.
The tests of BinaxNow, Lucira and Ellume they have slight differences but a similar approach: rub, insert and get results without even getting up from the kitchen table, in 30 minutes or less.
While one of them offers same-day results, others require going through some hurdles.
Patients will be able to enter a pharmacy and buy the test Ellume without a prescription. It will be available from the end of this spring, it will cost about 30 dollars and it will also be sold online. Since it can be used by patients with no symptoms, it can be a useful tool for screening before going to school, work, or traveling.
The of Lucira It is more sensitive, as it uses molecular technology that can better detect positive cases, which is important to prevent transmission of the virus, but it is only available with a prescription and will cost a few 50 dollars.
The of BinaxNow it also requires a prescription. Patients respond to questions through an app to confirm that they have symptoms. The kit is then shipped to your door at a cost of about 25 dollars, plus the shipping cost.
These tests will add more much needed options and reduce barriers. Although home collection kits have been available for months, patients have to order them, collect a sample, and send it to a lab to get the results.
Home tests are covered by insurance if recommended by a doctoras well as existing collection kits, David Allen, a spokesman for America’s Health Insurance Plans, an industry trade group, told NBC News.
All home tests offer a nasal swab version and tests with a small kit to check for the presence of specific antigens, which indicate a coronavirus infection.
They are not as accurate as the standard test, PCR, but they allow patients to quickly and easily see whether to isolate themselves and consult with their physician. Experts say it is best to use them between five and seven days after exposure to the virus.
The test offers promising accessibility. No need to go to the doctor or clinic, or schedule a visit to the pharmacy. Also, because patients do not have to leave home, it is easier for them to get tested, which lowers the risk of infecting others.
Michael Mina, an epidemiologist at Harvard University who has studied dozens of rapid COVID-19 tests, said cheap and rapid home tests can be a powerful tool in rolling back the pandemic.
“If millions of Americans were tested at home twice a week, we would start to see drastic reductions in cases in a month or two,” Mina said.
Even if the test is negative, that doesn’t mean it’s okay to go to a big family party. Patients should consult with a medical professional to interpret their results in the context of their exposure history, federal authorities warn.
Each test is a little different and will require some training from the patient. For example, BinaxNow’s, available by prescription, is the size of a credit card. Patients open the card and squeeze six drops of an enclosed reagent liquid into a small hole, according to federal authorization for emergency use.
They then rub the inside of their noses, insert the swab into the hole in the card, and turn it three times in a clockwise direction. They then peel off an adhesive and seal the card. They wait 15 minutes and one hole shows the result: a single pink or purple line means it is negative. A second pink or purple line means positive.
If you test positive, isolate yourself, don’t go out, says Mina. It is a “red light”.
Home collection tests
Right now, there are more than a dozen coronavirus home tests that have been on the market for months with emergency use authorization. Patients answer a few symptom screening questions, order a specimen collection kit, collect the specimen using a nasal swab or saliva collection, seal it, and send it to a lab for results in about three to five days. The test costs between $ 100 and $ 200 and, if prescribed, will be reimbursed by insurers.
They are sold by various labs, including Quest Diagnostics, Everlywell, LetsGetChecked, RapidRona, Binx Health, Pixel, Picture by Fulgent Genetics, and a Spectrum Solutions test sold on Forhims.com.
One of them, DxTerity, is available on Amazon. The company claims that it provides more than 95% of the results in 24 hours.
Due to the time it takes to get the results, These kits are best used by people who already have a high probability of having COVID-19 and that they are already isolating themselves, Mina warned.
Direct tests are designed to be easy for the patient to use, but according to an article published in the Journal of Law and the Biosciences, they can have more precision issues compared to tests performed by a medical professional. For example, if a patient takes a saliva test and drinks a large glass of water first, that can dilute the sample.
After hitting a new record at the end of the year, cases in the United States are declining. Could home tests prevent or mitigate another increase?
“It is not a panacea”, adds Mina, “but it is a very powerful tool that we are not using yet”.