UK biotech Avacta withdraws its rapid antigen test from the market, fearing the test will not be sensitive enough to detect cases of the Omicron variant which now make up the vast majority of infections in the UK
The rapid test detected instances of the variant in cases where the viral load was high. But lab tests have shown the diagnosis was unable to detect cases where there was a low level of Omicron present compared to previous coronavirus variants, the company noted Monday.
The decision comes as antigen tests developed before the arrival of the Omicron variant are not precise enough with the new variant, which contains a large number of mutations. Antigen tests are less accurate than PCR tests, but can be purchased over the counter and do not require a lab technician to perform them.
Several European countries are relying on rapid tests to support their decision to shorten coronavirus quarantine periods, with a negative result allowing people to return to work a week or less after catching COVID. Health experts fear that “false negative” antigen testing could mean people returning to the workplace while they are still contagious.
German Minister of Health Karl Lauterbach noted Sunday that the Paul Ehrlich Institute, a health watchdog, was reviewing the hundreds of rapid tests on the market to create a list of those that work with Omicron.
In Israel, health officials recommend that people swab their throats in addition to their noses when using rapid test kits to increase the chances of picking up Omicron, reports Reuters.
Avacta has said it will suspend the sale of its rapid tests as it redesigns the product to ensure it is able to adequately detect cases of the Omicron variant. He did not say when the tests could return to the market.