Rapid omicron test: is one nasal swab sufficient?

The fast-spreading omicron variant has made us more dependent on rapid home antigen testing to tell us if we have COVID-19. But should we dab our throat as well as our nose?

For now, the advice depends on where you live.

Some scientists have said that people can pass omicron when it has infected their throats and saliva, but before the virus reaches their nose, so a swab of the nostrils early in the infection will not detect it.

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A recent small American study confirmed this point of view. PCR tests of the saliva of 29 people infected with omicron detected the virus an average of three days before nose samples were positive in antigen tests, or said to be lateral flow.

In general, rapid tests have lower sensitivity than laboratory-processed PCR tests, which means they produce more false negatives. But if your test is positive, you almost certainly have COVID-19, which makes antigen testing a powerful tool in the fight against the pandemic, as the demand for PCR testing due to omicron overwhelms labs.

As a result of recent studies, some experts in the United States have now advised users of antigen tests to dab their throat before dabbing their nose.

All antigen tests with emergency use clearances from the United States Food and Drug Administration use nasal samples, and she has expressed concern about the safety of the home throat swab, saying users should follow the manufacturers instructions.

In Israel, a senior health official said people who self-test for COVID-19 should clean their throats as well as their noses when using rapid antigen tests, even if that goes to the length of time. ‘against the instructions issued by the manufacturer.

Some other countries, including the UK, have approved rapid antigen tests that clean both the throat and nose, or just the nose.

In Germany, the health minister said he would study the reliability of rapid antigenic tests to detect the omicron variant and publish a list of the most accurate products.

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Read more:

WHO sees more evidence omicron causes milder symptoms

Do Home COVID-19 Tests Detect the Omicron Variant?

Why are so many vaccinated people getting COVID-19 lately?

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