Covid-19: the use of cheap tests to detect more infected people
In France, the Ministry of Health has observed an upsurge in the number of Covid-19 cases for several weeks. To limit the spread of the virus, health authorities recommend carrying out screening tests as soon as the slightest symptom appears. A patient with the coronavirus may experience fever, cough, shortness of breath, or loss of taste and smell.
Recently, researchers at Harvard University (United States) called for the generalization of rapid tests to detect a greater number of patients with Covid-19. Their cost varies from one to five dollars. Michael Mina, professor of epidemiology at Harvard, in particular asked the American drug agency (FDA) to authorize the sale of these tests. For now, no action has been taken by the institution.
Considered to be unreliable, these tests would nevertheless be more accessible for a majority of the population. According to Professor Mina, few people in the United States get tested by PCR because these tests are expensive and lead to several weeks of delay before obtaining the results.
The problem with these rapid tests? They have low sensitivity. Consequently, they miss many positive cases and deliver “false negatives”. But thanks to their low cost, it would be possible to perform several rapid tests per week. “We are so committed to high-end and expensive testing that we don’t test anyone. Maybe we just need a null test. If it is so cheap that it can be used frequently, then it might detect 85% of people with contagion, instead of less than 5% “, explained Michael Mina in the podcast This Week in Virology.