Updated: May 7
Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, testing has played a crucial role in keeping track of cases and managing transmission rates. To inform those infected, so they can quickly take the appropriate precautions, testing has to be fast, convenient, and accessible.
Standard Covid-19 tests, like the Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR), use a long Nasopharyngeal swab which takes a sample from deep inside the nasal cavity. As highlighted in a THE article, besides being very invasive and uncomfortable, it can cause a person to sneeze or cough, which poses a threat of transmitting the virus to the medical staff. This leads to other problems; a large amount of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is needed by those conducting the tests and it has to be changed between tests to avoid transmission to other patients and medical staff. This process is time-consuming and can cause a reduction in the testing capacity of a hospital or a test center. Not only that but those tests take longer to process and are expensive.
Less invasive nasal swab tests
Rapid Antigen Tests (RAT) are the fastest way you can get tested, especially if you prefer a non-invasive method. They can be done with a Nasopharyngeal swab just like a PCR, but most of them use a shorter nasal swab which usually stops at the nostril. This makes them much more appealing to people and especially to children. For example, in France, the Haute Autorité de Santé (HAS) recommends self-tests for children and wants to roll out “large-scale testing” with self-tests in all infant, primary and secondary schools in addition to universities, The Local reports.
Rapid antigen tests are rapidly entering the European market, allowing faster and cheaper ways to detect infection.
Non-invasive spit tests
Saliva tests are also gaining popularity. They are a non-invasive test and a great option for children and people with pharyngeal conditions since all a patient has to do is spit into a tube. Saliva tests also minimize the risk for healthcare workers and reduce the need for PPE, preserving it for patient care.
Gurgle and lollipop tests
The diversity doesn’t stop there. According to The Local, Vienna offers its residents regular testing free of charge, with the so-called PCR “gurgle tests”. The tests are carried out at home and involve gargling with a saline solution for 60 seconds before collecting the liquid in a test tube to be returned for testing. You can get your test result within 24 hours.
Another newly developed lollipop-shaped Covid-19 test is being used in some of Austria's kindergartens as an alternative for toddlers who don't like throat or nose swabs, The Local reported. The test involves sucking the test “lollipop” for 90 seconds, dipping the test in a container, with results available after just 15 minutes.
The future has never been more uncertain but one constant event in the short term will be testing. The diversity of non-invasive tests is steadily growing in order to cater to everyone’s needs. Cheaper tests with less discomfort and extensive accessibility are the key to widespread testing which in turn will help gain control over the pandemic.