Royal Oak Tribune
Caution arises on rapid tests in asymptomatic people
One of the first states to receive rapid, low-cost coronavirus tests from the U.S. government is cautioning against their use in asymptomatic people, a group that were hoped to benefit most from the technology.
Antigen tests like one from Abbott Laboratories that look for telltale viral proteins may miss some infections that can be picked up by costlier gold-standard assays, and can incorrectly return positive results. The rapid tests aren’t recommended for people without symptoms who haven’t been exposed to a COVID-19 patient, and those who undergo one should be informed of the limitations, the Louisiana Department of Health said in guidance issued last week.
The recommendations highlight issues with tests like Abbott’s $5 BinaxNOW that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is spending $750 million on and were used in the White
House. State health officials are increasingly concerned that people without symptoms should be screened with more costly but more reliable polymerase chain reaction assays because of worries about the rapid tests’ performance, according to Jeff Engel, a senior adviser at the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists.
HHS “made this purchase without any studies on the novel use in which they’re deploying these tests,” Engel said. “I think that’s careless.”
HHS is providing antigen tests for use in symptomatic and asymptomatic people, said Mia Heck, an agency spokeswoman, in an email. Abbott didn’t respond to a request for comment.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration also issued an alert on antigen tests, warning on Tuesday that they can produce incorrect positive results. Problems are more likely in populations with low virus prevalence, or when the test is improperly performed, the FDA said in a statement.