First Antigen Test Approved for Canada
Canada appears to be quickly adopting rapid testing options for COVID-19, not long ago a rapid PCR test was approved, and now a rapid antigen test has been approved as well. Both tests are supplied by Abbott in the USA. The Panbio antigen test uses a nasal swab, much like a conventional PCR test, but instead tests for viral proteins, not genetic material. Abbott claims that the Panbio antigen test system can provide test results in 15-20 minutes, and boasts a sensitivity of 93.3% (98.2% for samples with Ct values ≤33), and a specificity of 99.4% (you can learn more about Ct values here).
What really sets antigen testing apart from PCR testing is that the window for accurate results is much shorter. For best accuracy, the patient should be tested within a day of symptom onset. With every extra day (either before or after symptoms) the likelihood of an accurate test result steeply declines (see above graph). This means that if you are freshly exposed to COVID-19, or if you have been suffering symptoms for a while already, there is a significant chance of receiving a false negative result. The good news is that the chance of receiving a false-positive result is generally very low with antigen testing.
YVR, WestJet, and UBC Collaborate on Study
It should go without saying that one of the industries hit hardest by COVID-19 is air travel. With non-essential international travel shut down, and a mandatory 14-day quarantine required for anyone visiting Canada from abroad regardless of the reason, air travel has ground to a halt. In the hopes of possibly eliminating at least one of their problems, YVR, WestJet and UBC have announced a joining of forces to launch a study to enable real-time rapid testing at the airport.
Few specifics are available as to how the testing will be done, or what kind of testing methods will be used. Currently, there are 2 rapid tests available for use in Canada and potentially more options on the way. It remains to be seen if this study will focus exclusively on preventing infectious individuals from flying, or if it will also take into consideration the following 14 days after travel usually covered by quarantine, to determine the likelihood of pre-symptomatic travellers as well.
That’s all for now, stay safe everyone!