US research findings: testing the population with rapid tests would significantly help to stop the pandemic
While the infectivity of the virus does not seem to decrease, there are more and more discussions about the faster methods to stop the spread of COVID-19. The world’s greatest scientists are constantly conducting research to prove that frequent and extensive testing of the population by both rapid and molecular tests can be the key to stopping a pandemic in just a few weeks.
A few days ago, the researchers of Harvard and Colorado universities published the results of the study in the “Science Advances” publication. The main goal of the study was to find out what factors are the most important when testing people.
Two hypotheses have been raised. The first one states that effective screening depends largely on the frequency of testing and the speed of obtained results while the second hypotheses states that that effective testing largely depends on high test sensitivity.
The study consisted of a group of 10,000 simulated individuals. It was considered that 35% of them have severe coronavirus symptoms and 65% have mild symptoms or an asymptomatic version of the virus. Two ways of testing have been applied: testing all individuals (using both molecular and rapid tests) and testing the individuals according to their symptoms only.
Rapid test – a powerful tool to stop reduce the infectivity
Comparing rapid antigen and molecular tests, the analysis showed that the differences and accuracy of the tests have very little effect on the rate of viral infectivity. Even though rapid tests tend to have lower sensitivity level than molecular tests, using rapid tests obtain results at a speed of minutes, which means it is much more effective than not testing at all. Rapid tests allow the infection to be detected quickly and isolate the individual immediately.
Testing frequency is more important than the type of test
The study showed dramatic results when all (10,000) individuals were tested daily or every third day. The overall reduce of infectivity was 62-66% in just one week, using both rapid antigen tests and molecular tests.
All in all, according to the research, scientists claim that effective screening depends largely on frequency of testing and the speed of reporting and is only marginally improved by high test sensitivity. They encourage to focus on the fact that the availability, frequency, and response time of tests should be a priority in the selection process, while the accuracy of rapid tests should remain in the second place.