Fast, less accurate coronavirus tests may ease US backlog, experts say

Ms. Magnus, who has already completed two weeks of quarantine at home, no longer cares about her results. “So far, that tells me nothing,” he said.

Antigen tests, on the other hand, can be low-tech and easy to make en masse. Delivered weekly or daily, they can painlessly send people back to offices, schools and universities, providing peace of mind to parents, teachers and employers. Everyone – not just those who feel ill – will have an easy way to assess their health status on a regular basis.

“The goal here is to detect as many infections as possible,” said Daniel Laramore, an applied mathematician who models infectious diseases at the University of Colorado, Boulder. “It means taking as many shots on target as we can.”

The widespread distribution of antigen tests may also reduce the demand for PCR, with still significant roles in vulnerable communities such as hospitals and nursing homes. As things stand, many doctors cannot achieve the results of their patients even within 24 hours.

Melissa Miller, director of the Clinical Molecular Microbiology Laboratory for UNC Hospitals, said that accuracy is very important in those settings. “You don’t want to miss that diagnosis.”

are lacking. Antigen tests will miss some people who test positive by PCR, which increases coronovirus RNA and picks it up in very small amounts. With antigen tests, proteins cannot be copied in the same way, making it easier for some people to make mistakes that are pathogen-free given the level of coronovirus in their bodies. Some antigen tests used in the past recall up to half the infections they discover.

Initially, many experts went bald due to these deficiencies. “As Miller, we wanted the most sensitive test, the most specific test, the most accurate test,” Dr. Miller said. “End of story.”