The US Food and Drug Administration granted emergency-use approval for the first rapid coronavirus test that does not need any special computer equipment to get results. The test was produced by Abbott laboratories, which will sell for only $5 and takes only fifteen minutes to make results without the need for any special equipment.
The new test called the BinaxNOW COVID-19 Ag Card is the fourth rapid test that detects antigen proteins found on the coronavirus. It is meant to be taken within the first seven days of feeling coronavirus symptoms. The self-contained test is based on the same technology used to test for the flu, strep throat, and other infections, all in a credit card-sized kit.
Still, the testing needs to be performed by doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and medical assistants. A healthcare provider collects a sample using a nasal swab and inserts it into the card-sized test. The test also works with a free app, NAVICA, available for iOS and Android platforms, allowing people who test negative to show a temporary digital health pass from their phones marked with your last test date.
In general, rapid tests like Abbott’s are less accurate than lab-developed tests. The FDA announced that results with Abbott’s test might need a confirmatory lab test in some cases, especially for those negative patients showing coronavirus-like symptoms.
Since the pandemic, nasal swab tests are sent to the lab for PCR screening as the standard protocol for COVID-19 testing. Despite their accuracy, this has led to a shortage of supplies and repeated delays in reporting results from having to rely on expensive specialized machines and chemicals.
Some public health professionals and lawmakers have said that low cost, mass-produced rapid tests are the best way to find and isolate those infected and mitigate bottlenecks in mass testing capacities to curb the coronavirus’s spread. The US is testing about 690,000 people per day, down from a peak of 850,000 daily tests last month. It is still not enough to catch up for the delays in testing and reporting results, especially during a spike in cases the previous month.
The influx of antigen tests will significantly help meet the Trump administration’s projection that as much as 90 million COVID-19 tests per month will be available by September if needed. But US Admiral Brett is confident that the US will contain the outbreak with far fewer tests.