New data from the FDA has concurred that at-home testing kits for coronavirus may be less sensitive towards detecting the virus in a person who has been infected with the Omicron variant.
Early data suggests antigen tests, like those used in at-home rapid test kits, “may have reduced sensitivity” to the highly contagious new strain, said the FDA this week, while cases in the US skyrocketed to record-breaking numbers. As it stands, this latest announcement is based on preliminary studies by the National Institutes of Health’s Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics program, which found antigen tests, like the ones available in at-home kits, do detect the omicron strain but not as effectively.
In contrast, leading test-kit manufacturer Abbott said its BinaxNOW antigen test has detected omicron in live virus tests with equivalent sensitivity to other variants. “We know our tests are a critical tool in controlling [the] spread of the virus and we will remain vigilant in conducting analyses and closely monitoring test performance,” the manufacturer said Tuesday. “We have a network of research, academic and public health collaborators strategically placed around the world that are actively sequencing viruses to look for the next viral threat, including COVID variants.”
Due to these findings, going forward, if a person tests negative on an antigen test but has coronavirus symptoms or was likely exposed to the virus, they’re encouraged to undergo a PCR test, which takes longer to deliver results but can show if there is an active coronavirus infection.