When carried out by competent personnel, rapid tests deliver reliable results.
© ROLAND SCHLAGER
Graz – Covid-19 rapid tests in general medical practices can quickly indicate a virus infection with a similarly high level of accuracy as laboratory-based PCR tests. This is the result of a study conducted by Queen Mary University of London and the University of Oxford. It was carried out in cooperation with the Medical University of Graz, the Institute for Advanced Studies (IHS) and general practitioners in the Upper Styrian district of Liezen, as the IHS announced on Wednesday.
2500 people tested
In addition to vaccination, the early detection of infected people through reliable tests is an important means of breaking transmission chains and curbing the spread of the coronavirus. “It is important, however, that the tests are carried out correctly by qualified personnel, as was the case in our study,” said general practitioner Oliver Lammel from Ramsau am Dachstein. On his initiative, general practitioners’ practices from the Liezen district tested more than 2500 people with flu-like symptoms in the real environment of primary care with rapid tests, so-called lateral flow tests (LFT). They are cheaper than PCR tests and deliver a result after around 30 minutes instead of the conventional waiting time of one to three days for laboratory-based tests.
However, previous studies have shown that lateral flow tests may be less sensitive than PCR when detecting Covid-19, especially in asymptomatic people and in the early or late stages of an infection when the viral load is lowest. “However, we found that the two test methods show a similar level of accuracy in patients who are newly symptomatic,” stated Werner Leber of the Queen Mary University of London.
89 percent of the cases correctly identified as negative
The study was the first to compare lateral flow and PCR tests on the same group of people on a large scale. The lateral flow tests detected more than 95 percent of the cases found by PCR. In addition, they correctly identified 89 percent of the cases as negative. Five different brands of test kits, three laboratories and professional swabs, which were offered in 20 general practitioners’ practices, were used.
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The results would show that the LF test shows the virus infection quickly: The IHS summarized the infection in the early stages of infection, at the beginning of symptoms and also when the CT value was low. “The study results provide the basis for future containment strategies in the context of primary care, which can make such an important contribution in a pandemic,” said Thomas Czypionka, Head of Health Economics and Health Policy at IHS. The study was funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program.