Lateral Flow Tests Are 95% Effective At Detecting COVID-19 W
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A new study has found that lateral flow tests detect COVID-19 with similar accuracy to laboratory-based PCR tests, providing they are used at the onset of infection and soon after symptoms start. Lateral flow tests are cheaper and produce a result in just 30 minutes. The finding could be pivotal to national strategies looking to tackle the next phase of the pandemic.

As part of the study, over 2,500 people with mild to moderate flu-like symptoms were assessed by GPs in the district of Liezen, Austria, between October 22 and November 30, 2020 and tested for viral antigen using lateral flow tests. Those who were suspected to have COVID-19 were also tested using a PCR test. The lateral flow tests detected more than 95 percent of the cases found by PCR, and correctly identified 89 percent of cases as negative.

The study is the first to compare lateral flow and PCR testing on the same group of people on a large scale. It also included the variables of a real-world setting: five different brands of test kit, three laboratories, and professional swabbing offered at 20 GP practices.

Researcher said: In our study, both shorter duration of symptoms and higher viral load were significantly associated with positive lateral flow tests. This highlights the necessity of testing at early infection with lateral flow tests, and shows that in patients who are newly symptomatic, the two testing methods have similar levels of accuracy.

"Our study is the first study to demonstrate that point-of-care antigen testing using lateral flow tests combined with clinical assessment of symptomatic patients can rapidly and accurately detect SARS-CoV-2 infection in primary care", said a researcher. In summary, this study provides evidence that lateral flow tests can accurately detect SARS-CoV-2 infection as an alternative to PCR testing among symptomatic patients in a real-life primary care setting across a large geographical area.

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