Faster COVID-19 test results trump more precise tests, public health experts say

Public health experts say it's better to get fast and frequent results from COVID-19 tests that may be less accurate than to get more precise results that take several days, The Wall Street Journal reported. 

The most commonly used COVID-19 tests are extremely sensitive and need to be processed in labs,  often taking several days to produce results. In July, labs were overwhelmed by demand for COVID-19 tests and that slowed result turnaround times to days or weeks.

Tests that don't require a lab, such as the one launched by Abbott that has a 15-minute turnaround time, tend to be less sensitive and are more likely to miss cases, but repeat testing makes up for the lack of sensitivity, experts say. Speedy tests allow public health experts to quickly identify the most infectious people and curb the spread of the virus. 

The FDA has granted emergency authorization to four antigen tests that work quicker and are less expensive than standard tests. They can be administered anywhere with the help of a medical provider. Antigen tests are better at identifying who has more of the virus in their system, so the tests are likely to find people who are the most infectious, the Journal reported.


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