Coronavirus rapid tests - a warning

Coronavirus rapid tests - a warning

Thursday 19th March 2020

Some manufacturers are selling products for the diagnosis of COVID-19 infection in community settings, such as pharmacies and online.

The current view by Public Health England (PHE) is that use of these products is NOT advised:

  • some of these products look for virus while others look for the body's immune response to the virus. Such tests are very rapid and can work on a range of specimens including serum, plasma or finger-prick whole blood
  • there is little information on the accuracy of the tests, or on how a patient's antibody response develops or changes during the course of a COVID-19 infection. It is not known whether either a positive or negative result is reliable
  • at the very early stages of infection there is a risk that antibody tests will give a false negative result
  • currently there is no published evidence about the suitability of these tests for diagnosing COVID-19 infection in a community setting

These COVID-19 rapid antibody tests available online are strictly for professional use only and can not be legally sold to the general public.

Of course, the situation is changing by the day. Just this afternoon the UK government's Chief Scientific Advisor mentioned that the UK government is working on a laboratory test and a rapid test that could be used at home to show that a person has immunity but free from infection and allow front-line doctors and other healthcare professionals to return to work. Nevertheless, it is important that the devices undergo full scientific trials to prove that they are accurate and that the tests are used for the right reason.