Things are not going so well as far as COVID-19 is concerned. We don’t have a vaccine yet. Millions of people have lost their lives. And now the tests are also questionable.
Elon Musk opened up about his experience with COVID-19 tests, also known as, rapid antigen tests. He revealed that he took four tests out of which, two came out negative and two were positive. He then said that he took two PCR tests from separate labs and is now waiting for the results.
Readers must know that Elon Musk has always been dismissive about the pandemic – and recently tweeted that something extremely bogus is going on.
But we must also consider that a lot of times even the most normal medical tests, like blood tests, come out wrong. Hence, you can never call the results 100% accurate.
However, all is not lost. Musk’s tweets are not entirely useless – he has raised an important topic and we must converse and find out what antigens and PCR tests are. Are these tests accurate all the time? Who is eligible to take them and what’s the procedure?
We’ve done all the research for you and will explain the medical knowledge in English language to you.
Let’s start our query with rapid antigen tests. Obviously, the first question that pops in your mind is how do they work? Rapid antigen tests need a nasal sample which is to be collected at home by a healthcare provider. These medical professionals work on the sample and find a specific protein that is found on the surface of the Coronavirus whenever someone gets infected by it.
Normally, these tests should cost you around $250 to $100, and you may even get the results delivered to your home in a matter of few minutes, they’re not as reliable as the polymerase chain reaction – PCR tests.
The next question is about accuracy: the sensitivity or accuracy rate lies somewhere between 84%-98%. Furthermore, Food and Drug Administration claims that positive results from antigen tests have a high quotient of accuracy, but they also have a bigger change of false negatives. Due to this reason, doctors recommend that people get both tests done simultaneously as that reduces chances of error. You can get the PCR test results in two days and that confirms the molecular level to show whether or not someone has COVID-19.
Now let’s get back to Musk for a minute – he says that he took the rapid antigen test from BD which is a global medical company Becton, Dickson and Company. Although Musk’s results of four tests didn’t match, the company confirms that its tests have achieved 84% sensitivity so far, which is a promising number. Musk has said that he followed it up with a PCR test.
It is believed that rapid antigen tests work best in people who’ve tested in the early stages of the virus. These results help in screening congregate settings, like nursing homes and shared housing. However, there is a problem – with the increase in antigen level, there will be a drop in the test’s ability to detect the virus. Thus, a negative test result doesn’t factor out the COVID-19 infection.
Source: Los Angeles Times
When you talk about PCR tests, they are considered to be the gold standard for clinical diagnosis. A healthcare provider basically sticks a long swab up the nostril to collect a fluid sample from the top of your throat right behind your nose. The tests are designed to search for those genetic components that are responsible for COVID-19. Normally, tests are free if you have health insurance but is if the cost is coming out of your pocket, you’ll have to pay somewhere between $60 to $300.
The tests have a fairly stronger sensitivity rate – 95%. The chances of false positive results are minimum to rare because the genetic material that causes the virus can’t be confused with any other genetic material.
Let’s get back to Elon Musk, when the pandemic started, Musk had a skeptical outlook and he predicted that there would be very few or none at all cases in the United States by April. We’re now in November and we know how terrible the situation is because the numbers keep rolling.
Now, Elon Musk has most likely contracted the Coronavirus. It’s kind of ironic.
The early assessment of experts who’ve studied the rapid antigen tests suggests a protein lies on the surface of SARS-CoV-2, which demands more caution as well as research. This could likely be the issue with Musk’s test results. This controversy began Friday night when Musk revealed that he experienced COVID-19 symptoms after returning from Berlin last week.
His tweets hint that this could cause problem in the future and be responsible for the surge in cases – something we’ve been noticing since September. People are more prone to using rapid tests as they’re cheaper and quicker as they don’t have to be sent to laboratory. But since the tests are less accurate, mote people could be diagnosed positively rather than authentically.
Now various scenarios can happen. If Musk is at the start or end of the infection period, a scenario similar to what happened with Trump and associates can be observed.
The case of false positives is concerning according to Pekosz. “That would be the scenario of most concern. One would be of concern. To have two is very concerning.”
“There are many factors that could lead to a discordant result, including a low viral load. As we clearly state in our instructions for use, negative results should be considered in the context of a patient’s specific situation and confirmed with a molecular PCR assay if necessary for patient management.”
Another theory making rounds is explained below by Michael Mina who is an epidemiologist from Harvard and a strong advocator of antigen tests.
“Did he get two positives and then ‘use up’ the virus in his nose but continue swabbing? Point is, he didn’t give enough information to know if the test results are real or how to interpret it.”
Thus, it’s essential that FDA provides proper ratings and a procedure to verify proper usage.