Which lateral flow tests work best?
In data published this week the Department of Health & Social Care ("DHSC") has released data showing which of the tests deliver the best results.
The data is a huge help in working out which of the tests are best avoided, if you do use the tests in your business.
The biggest study so far
Between August and December 2020 the DHSC selected 64 lateral flow tests for detailed evaluation. The testing included standardised laboratory evaluations and, for those that performed well enough, field testing in the Falcon-C19 research study and other settings (COVID testing centres, hospitals, schools and in the armed forces).
Nearly 10,000 tests were carried out in strictly monitored circumstances at PHE Porton Down. The results were reviewed by the UK COVID-19 Lateral Flow Oversight group study.
Most kits gave poor results
From the 64 different tests, 5 had a kit failure rate above the acceptable threshold for use (more than 10% failure is deemed unacceptable)
Of the 14, three failed the next stage ("PHE Stage 3a") of testing, four passed and the remaining 7 tests are still being evaluated.
A handful gave promising results
The results suggest a handful of lateral flow tests have promising performance characteristics for mass testing.
However, this is most relevant when infection rates are high, because the tests have well known weaknesses when infection rates are low.
The report again highlighted the critical impact of training on the accuracy of the tests, as each was tested when being used by a laboratory technician or healthcare worker.
The four best tests
Of the 64 different types of tests evaluated the four so far that were found to have desirable characteristics (sensitivity, specificity and low failure rates) were:
Zhejiang orient Gene Biotech Co. Coronavirus Ag Rapid Test Cassette ("Orient Gene")
Anhui Deepblue Medical Technology COVID-19 (Sars-CoV-2)
Innova SARS-CoV-2 Antigen Rapid Qualitative Test ("Innova")
Abbott Panbio COVID-19 Ag Rapid Test Device ("Abbott")
Although the tests have known weaknesses and more data about their use in asymptomatic testing settings is needed, it is re-assuring that some more clarity is starting to be found about the relative performance of the different tests.
About Occupational Health Assessment Ltd
Occupational Health Assessment Ltd provides rapid access to expert occupational health support for businesses across the United Kingdom.
With a unique occupational health assessment service (https://occupationalhealthassessment.com/