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Do lateral flow tests detect omicron? Your questions answered

Creator : Andrew Lee, Reader in World Public Well being, College of Sheffield

Simply as we thought we understood COVID testing, alongside got here omicron and raised an entire new bunch of questions. We requested Dr Andrew Lee, a reader in international public well being, to reply them.

The UK authorities web site ran out of lateral movement checks. Does that imply I can’t get one wherever?

Lateral movement checks for house supply in England have been quickly unavailable in current days. Authorities ministers have careworn that this isn’t due to a scarcity of the checks however due to an distinctive improve in demand for them that has outstripped the power to ship the checks.

That is harking back to the toilet-paper shopping for frenzy final yr when folks feared a scarcity. It’s possible that as the push for checks settles, on-line entry to the checks ought to rapidly return to regular.

It’s necessary to notice that you may nonetheless get a lateral movement take a look at out of your native pharmacy, so long as you may have a gather code. College students and schooling employees can also be capable to get checks from their colleges and schools and there are local people assortment websites, resembling libraries and mosques. Test along with your native council for the most recent data.

Do lateral movement checks work as nicely with omicron as they did with earlier variants?

The UK Well being Safety Company has examined the lateral movement gadgets presently in use and has reported that they do detect omicron and work in addition to they did towards different variants resembling delta.

If I’ve signs and a unfavourable lateral movement take a look at, ought to I nonetheless get a PCR?

Sure. Anybody with COVID signs ought to get a PCR take a look at, even when they’ve had a unfavourable outcome on a lateral movement take a look at. In contrast with the lateral movement take a look at, the PCR take a look at is way extra delicate. This doesn’t imply the lateral movement take a look at will not be good – they provide a fast outcome and might detect infections when an individual is likely to be most infectious and more likely to unfold an infection.

If each the lateral movement and PCR checks are unfavourable, then you might be unlikely to have COVID and the signs could also be on account of another illness, resembling an infection attributable to one other winter virus.

Can PCR checks additionally detect the so-called stealth model of omicron?

Sure. It is very important stress that PCR checks for COVID will detect infections attributable to all variants of COVID, together with omicron and the so-called stealth model. Some PCR checks, resembling reflex assay checks that are used for fast screening of recognized mutations, use a set of “gene targets” to assist establish which variant of the virus is current. The so-called stealth model of omicron doesn’t have one of many mutations that permits it to be recognized by one of many gene targets, however the an infection will nonetheless be detected by the opposite gene targets. It’s subsequently incorrectly labelled as a stealth model, as it’s nonetheless detectable by the PCR take a look at.

Can I do a PCR take a look at at house? In that case, how?

Sure. It’s doable to order a PCR take a look at equipment to do at house. Anybody with COVID signs can order a house take a look at equipment by the federal government web site. In the event you should not have COVID signs, you should still be capable to get a PCR take a look at equipment if:

  • you’re a contact of somebody who has examined constructive
  • you’ve been requested to get a take a look at by a neighborhood council or somebody from NHS Take a look at and Hint
  • a GP or different well being skilled has requested you to get a take a look at
  • you’re collaborating in a authorities pilot challenge
  • you’ve been requested to get a take a look at to substantiate a constructive outcome
  • you’ve acquired an unclear outcome and have been informed to get a second take a look at
  • you might want to get a take a look at for somebody you reside with who has signs.

If I do a PCR, will I be informed if I’ve omicron?

Not essentially. Not all PCR COVID checks endure an additional set of checks to work out which variant has prompted that an infection. However neither is that this data essential. For the person, it is not going to matter a lot which variant one has as the general public well being measures would be the identical; that’s, the necessity to self-isolate and to take precautions to restrict the unfold of an infection. Additionally, within the coming weeks, it’s possible that most infections then shall be attributable to omicron and never different variants.

How good are PCR checks at precisely figuring out omicron?

As talked about above, the PCR checks for COVID are fairly good at detecting COVID infections together with omicron. However not all constructive PCR checks go on to have extra checks to work out which variant is inflicting the an infection. A proportion shall be examined for a set of gene targets (genotyping), and a few will go on to have a way more in depth evaluation of the entire genes of the virus (sequencing). Sequencing will give essentially the most correct identification of omicron. Genotyping will also be very correct when a gene goal particular to this variant is used.

If I’ve a constructive lateral movement or PCR take a look at, what do I must do?

In each instances, if in case you have a constructive lateral movement or PCR take a look at, you must isolate instantly. That is a very powerful step you may take that can assist stop the unfold of an infection to others. Self-isolation means you shouldn’t go to work, college or public locations, you must make money working from home in the event you can, you shouldn’t go on public transport or use taxis, or exit to get meals and medication. You shouldn’t have guests in your house, together with family and friends – apart from individuals who give important care.

Extra recommendation is out there on the NHS web site.


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