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How effective are at-home COVID-19 tests?

It's being called a major milestone in testing for COVID-19. The FDA has now authorized the...
It's being called a major milestone in testing for COVID-19. The FDA has now authorized the first over-the-counter, fully at home COVID-19 test.
Published: Jan. 11, 2021 at 3:16 AM EST
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - When the first case of COVID-19 appeared in Kentucky in March 2020, testing was extremely limited. Now, ten months later, thousands of tests are being conducted daily.

“The expansion of testing has really been a scientific marvel,” Dr. Benjamin Klausing, an infectious disease specialist at Baptist Health in Louisville, said.

In the last several weeks, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued emergency use authorization for a few different at-home COVID-19 tests.

Klausing was hoping at-home testing kits would be ready sooner, but he believes they will be extremely helpful.

“Some people are hesitant to go get out of their house, go to a testing site,” he said. “They are worried they might get infected. They are worried going to pick up things. They don’t want to go sit in a long line potentially to get it. So, it removes that extra barrier that might be there for people to get COVID tested.”

Klausing believes that it is important to isolate and detect people who have COVID to control the spread of the disease. He added that about 40-45% of people who contract COVID do not experience symptoms.

“They aren’t looking to pass on COVID,” Klausing said. “They are going and saying they want to intentionally infect grandma or their parents or coworkers. They just don’t know that they have it. So, any barriers we can remove to testing as testing becomes more available, that’s a good thing. That’s a good day in the fight against COVID.”

Over the counter at-home tests run $25 to about $100 and some require a prescription.

There are two kinds of tests, Klausing said. One is an antigen test, which detects a specific part of the COVID virus. The other kind is molecular, which looks for the genetic material of the virus (or RNA). The molecular test is a PCR-based test.

The exact effectiveness of the tests is still to be determined.

“The accuracy, kind of depends. I mean, it’s like with any COVID testing, no test is perfect,” Klausing said.

One company, Ellume, said their test is 96% effective. According to their website, clinical trials found Ellume’s test identified 96% of positive samples correctly and 100% of negative samples in people with symptoms of COVID-19.

For those without symptoms, Ellume said their test identified 91% of positive samples currently and 96% of negative samples correctly.

Another testing kit, Lucira, stated during their testing study that their test correctly identified 94% of positive samples and 98% of negative samples.

Abbott and other companies reported similar results for their tests.

Klausing says it is vital to administer the tests correctly.

“You always worry about how well do people collect it?” Klausing said. “The people who are doing the testing at these testing sites, that’s what they do. They are trained to do it. If you do not collect the specimen properly, that could lead to inaccurate results with the testing.”

He said at-home tests in general are not new in the medical world, but they are new for COVID.

Dr. Klausing said anyone with an at-home test who is still concerned they have COVID should go to a testing site and having a medical professional administer the test.

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