During the first peak of the coronavirus pandemic, it became apparent that the processing of the standard COVID-19 test using nasal swab samples, while considered a gold standard, was slow, taking over 24 hours to give results in most cases.
As demand for quicker test results increased with supplies running low, scientists and engineers rushed to fill the gap at scale for rapid diagnostic testing that would replace the standard real-time reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (rt-PCR) test.
Such technologies included rapid antigen tests, antibody tests, as well as tests using the loop-mediated isothermal amplification method (LAMP) and mass spectrometry. The UK is currently deploying “lateral flow” antigen tests, which deliver results on the spot, are cheap and easily mass produced. However they have important limitations.
With so many different types of test now on the market, how do we sort the wheat from the chaff and work out what form of testing is best for which healthcare or community setting? Our research group is testing the tests to find out.
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