OGDEN, Utah (ABC4 News) – A recent study by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention shows a popular rapid COVID-19 antigen test may miss two-thirds of asymptomatic cases compared to a PCR test.
This is the Abbott BinaxNOW rapid test. A recent study by the CDC researches found when compared with the PCR test, it detected nearly 36% of COVID-19 infections in people who didn’t have any symptoms and nearly 64% among those who did have symptoms.
“Most people are generally getting tested via the PCR which is much more sensitive than that,” says Caleb Harrison, an epidemiologist for the Bear River Health Department.
PCR tests detect COVID-19 RNA while the rapid antigen test detects protein fragments specific to the virus.
According to Harrison, this test has been used across the state, at long-term care facilities and schools, like the Davis School District which had a pilot rapid testing program in place to get kids back to school.
“If someone is symptomatic and they come up negative with that rapid test, then we encourage them or set them up with a way to get a PCR test to just double check those results,” says Harrison.
According to a spokesperson for the Utah Department of Health, just over 1,140,000 of these rapid tests have been delivered to partners such as universities, high schools, local health departments and first responders.
“I think there is a worry that people will think, ‘oh because these tests aren’t that sensitive that we’re missing lots of cases’ and I think that’s a worry we all in public health had, but luckily most of these rapid tests being used in the state are being used in a controlled environment,” says Harrison.
Harrison says using these rapid tests for regular surveillance is beneficial because it’s a cheaper option and PCR tests are becoming more available to those who may need it.