A new study by a team of researchers from Queen Mary University of London, The University of Oxford, the Institute for Advanced Research in Vienna, and the Medical University of Graz has concluded that a COVID-19 test based on horizontal flow tests, if used when symptoms first appear, Will match the accuracy of laboratory PCR tests.
The lateral flow detection protocol is 95% effective in the early screening phase of COVID-19.
SCI Tech Daily points out that the horizontal flow test solution is relatively low-cost and can produce results in 30 minutes. In contrast, laboratory PCR protocols will take 1-3 days. This important finding could help health authorities around the world better shape the next phase of COIVD-19 quarantine policies. Even after release, timely and rapid detection is critical.
As part of the study, the team, with the help of general practitioners, evaluated more than 2,500 patients with mild to moderate flu symptoms in Liezen region, Austria, population 79,652, between 22 October and 30 November 2020. Along with the horizontal flow testing protocol, those suspected of COVID-19 were also tested by PCR. The results showed that the former detected more than 95% of the confirmed cases detected by THE PCR program and correctly identified 89% of the negative results.
This study is the first to compare cross-flow and PCR in the same population on a large scale, taking into account real-world variables. During the trial, the team prepared five test kits from different brands, three LABS, and professional swabs from 20 medical device suppliers.
Study author Dr Werner Leber, from Queen Mary University of London, said: “Previous research has shown that lateral flow testing may be less sensitive than PCR in detecting COVID-19, particularly in asymptomatic individuals and in the early or late stages of infection, when viral load is lowest. But we found similar levels of accuracy for both tests in newly symptomatic patients.
“Countries are considering using horizontal flow tests to manage future pandemic waves. Our findings support this move, but ensuring that tests are properly managed should be an integral part of any strategy.”
Dr Jasmina Panovska-Griffiths, from the Big Data Institute/Queen’s College, Oxford University, said: in this study, shorter duration of symptoms or higher viral load were significantly associated with positive lateral flow detection rates. This highlights the need for lateral flow regimens for detection in the early stages of infection and the similar accuracy of the two methods in newly symptomatic patients.
Dr Thomas Czypionka, from the Institute for Advanced Studies in Vienna, said: “The new research lays the foundation for future rapid screening in primary care Settings, which in turn can make an important contribution to a larger scale COVID-19 response strategy.” In the context of the gradual relaxation of lockdown measures in the future, in addition to continuing to improve the vaccination rate, early screening to detect patients with mild cases in time will also be necessary.
Finally, Professor Andrea Siebenhofer, From the Institute for General Practice and Evidence-based Health Services at the Medical University of Graz, adds: As the first trial in the Austrian state of Styria in which general practitioners actively participated in the research process, the results could immediately help to optimize care during the COVID-19 pandemic.