Not so fast: Abbott rapid COVID-19 test raises concerns for safety of its handlers

Lab officials say Abbott's rapid COVID-19 test poses a greater risk of infection to those administering it than other types of diagnostic tests, Kaiser Health News reported.

HHS has said the test could save personal protective equipment, which has been in shortage across the country, as only gloves and a mask are required to be worn by those giving it. But lab officials told Kaiser Health News that gloves and masks are not enough and that test administrators should also be wearing lab coats or gowns and eye protection. 

To run Abbott's test, providers swab a person's nasal cavity and return the swab to its original wrapping.

Michael Pentella, head of Iowa's state public health lab, told Kaiser Health News that Abbott's test is the only one he knows of that requires the person giving the test to put the swab back into its wrapping, and some biosafety professionals are concerned about contamination that could be associated with handling the wrapper.

After the patient is swabbed, the sample must be swirled in an open container with liquid chemicals, raising the risk of releasing the virus into the air. A medical diagnostics expert told Kaiser Health News they were shocked at the fact that Abbott's test requires a swab gathered from a potentially infected patient to be openly mixed in liquid.

A spokesperson for the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene told Kaiser Health News the open structure of the testing machine could contaminate the person performing the test and the area around the machine.

Abbott's tests are being used at both Walgreens and CVS drive-thru testing sites

The lab officials told Kaiser Health News that Abbott's tests should still be used, but additional safety measures should be taken to protect workers from contracting COVID-19. 

Abbott said there is "no merit" to claims that its test is unsafe.

"Clinicians and lab professionals have been using the same ID NOW sample receiver since 2014 to detect flu, strep and RSV, and we've never had a complaint about operator contamination," the company told Becker's Hospital Review. 

Abbott also said the open container is not a risk because it's only about a quarter full of the liquid reagent, so it would be hard for a lab worker to splash the liquid outside of the container and that the virus doesn't survive in the reagent because it's acidic.

The company added that placing a sample swab back into its wrapping after being used on a patient isn't unique to its test. 

Read the full article here.

More articles on supply chain:
Kaiser building $14M COVID-19 testing facility
Mass Gen catheter shortage hiking coronavirus risk for providers
Northwell Health, U of South Florida Health create 3D-printed testing swabs

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