Does home COVID testing work for BA.5?

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BA.5, a mutation of the original omicron variant that is now responsible for nearly 80% of all current COVID-19 cases, is extremely contagious. It’s also the target of booster shots that will likely be rolled out to Americans this fall or winter, and it’s also likely to be the version of COVID-19 that sick President Joe Biden Thursday.

But do the rapid home tests we came to count (and even got delivered to us) capable of detecting BA.5?

Although new research may be published that proves that BA.5 makes some tests less effective in detecting positive cases of COVID-19, rapid tests seem to be doing their job. Here’s what you need to know.

How do COVID home tests work?

Home COVID-19 tests are usually rapid antigen tests, which work by identifying coronavirus proteins. If the proteins are present in your nose when you swab it, there will be a second line on your test, and you should consider yourself positive and contagious with COVID-19. This is similar to how a home pregnancy test works, but pregnancy tests detect the presence of a hormone instead of a virus. (And pregnancy isn’t contagious, of course.)

“Positive results remain highly accurate for these tests, although there may still be false negatives,” Shaili Gandh, vice president of pharmacy at SingleCare, said in an email. Indeed, it takes a greater amount of virus to be positive on a rapid test than the highly sensitive PCR or lab tests. Someone who is fully vaccinated and boosted, for example, may have a very low viral load (smaller amount of virus) and that may mean they are negative even though they have COVID-19. If so, you might need a PCR lab test before COVID-19 is confirmed. (That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use a home test if you’re boosted, but more on that below.)

Read more: Put down that fabric mask. These are the best masks to help avoid COVID

Many of us are familiar with the swab, dip, swirl, and drip test method for COVID-19.

Tang Ming Tung/Getty Images

Do home tests work with BA.5? When is the best time to test?

Research continues on BA.5, which includes the effectiveness of testing to detect it, according to Gandh. But making home COVID-19 tests work well may have less to do with the subvariant and more to do with when you test.

You are more likely to test positive for COVID-19 when you have symptoms. Similarly, asymptomatic people or people with mild symptoms might be more likely to have a false negative result than someone with many symptoms.

“Under these conditions, home testing is as good at detecting omicron as it is with other variants,” Sandra Adams, professor of biology and virologist at Montclair State University, told New Jersey Advance Media.

“The accuracy varies depending on when the tests are done,” she added.

Gandh said a “good rule of thumb” is to take at least two tests, with a day or two between tests. You should also follow the instructions on the box you have, which often comes in the form of a two-pack of tests, and be aware of any extension of the shelf life of certain home tests by the Food. and Drug Administration of the United States.

And, if home tests are found not to work against BA.5, the FDA will revoke its approval of that particular test.

“The FDA would know if there are any performance issues as it continues to monitor all authorized testing and scientific evidence over a period of time in case it needs to make changes,” Dr. Mark Fischer said. , regional medical director at International SOS. in an email.

What is the incubation period of BA.5?

At the start of the omicron push in December last year, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention changed their quarantine guidelines based on the understanding that people were most contagious with COVID-19. one or two days before they develop symptoms, and two to three days after.

Although some research suggests that BA.5 does not have a different incubation period than other versions of COVID-19, some people report testing positive for longer, Gandh notes. Dr. Eric Topol, professor of molecular medicine at Scripps Research, noted in a report earlier this month that changes in BA.5 that facilitate entry into cells may explain why some people take a long time to turn out to be negative.

“For now, although this new variant is still elusive, I recommend testing multiple times with home testing, and if symptoms persist [and you’re still testing negative]get a PCR test from your pharmacy or doctor,” Gandh said.

And, unfortunately, a positive rapid home test result in all likelihood means you have COVID-19. So consider yourself contagious and follow the CDC guidelines for isolation and masking.

The information in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended to constitute medical or health advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have about a medical condition or health goals.

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