We are used to using tools that help us monitor our health. RAPID ANTIGEN TEST is one of them. The blood glucose meter and blood glucose meter have become familiar devices in the home first-aid kit, and every other person has a smartwatch with the function of a heart rate monitor, pedometer and ECG on his wrist.
For two years now we have been living with a new problem – the COVID-19 pandemic. Now both doctors and scientists are inclined to believe that the virus is not going to leave us alone, even in the future 2-3 years. SARS-CoV-2 mutates, more and more new variants appear: “delta”, “delta plus”, “omicron”, “lambda”.
Yes, it is possible that as a result the virus will change, its course will become milder, and the risk of death will decrease. Or maybe not – the development scenarios are known, but in which direction the situation will develop is not yet clear. But it is already clear now: regardless of whether a person is vaccinated or has already been ill, protection against infection is far from 100%. Yes, vaccines protect against hospitalizations and severe course, but getting sick and being vaccinated can be contagious, and new options break through protection more often. These are called “breakthrough cases”. Judging by the statistics of the sick from South Africa and the first published data on the plasma activity of vaccinated, even three doses of Pfizer are knocked out by the omicron. This means that diagnosing the presence of coronavirus in the body inevitably becomes as commonplace as counting the pulse or measuring blood pressure.
Of course, there is such an officially recognized test for coronavirus as the PCR test. But it has its drawbacks:
- to pass the PCR, you will have to go to a specialized laboratory or call a specialist at home;
- you will have to wait for the results, as a rule, about a day, that is, you will not be able to find out if you are sick or not here and now;
- the reliability of the PCR test is highly dependent on the qualifications of the personnel, both at the stage of taking the material and in the laboratory;
- and most importantly, a PCR test can show a positive result, even if you have recently been ill and the body has ALREADY coped with the COVID-19 virus. Why? This will be discussed below.
If we need to know our covid status here and now, then we will need other tools. Those that will identify the coronavirus:
- without going to the doctor,
- as quickly as possible,
- in the most convenient and comfortable way,
- as accurately as possible.
The only available alternative to PCR is antigenic tests. They are more suitable for the rapid detection of infectiousness:
- such tests can be applied without leaving home;
- an adult will be able to make it for himself on his own, a parent for a child, without resorting to the help of medical personnel;
- to obtain the result, you do not need to take the taken material to the laboratory.
- you will know the result in 10-15 minutes;
- you will know with more than 95% accuracy whether you are infectious at the moment or not.
Having such a test in the home medicine cabinet, at the first suspicious signs of a cold, everyone can quickly find out whether the coronavirus is the cause of the symptoms or not. Moreover, you are not obliged to report the results to anyone. But first things first.
WHAT IS A RAPID ANTIGEN TEST FOR?
Despite the fact that antigenic tests are the only alternative way to confirm infection with SARS-CoV-2 in the Covid Treatment Guidelines, the results of rapid tests for coronavirus antigens are not officially recognized at the state level for accounting purposes. Based on the results of such a test, it will not be possible to obtain sick leave or permission to travel abroad. In a word, this method of confirming the presence of a virus in the body has no official force.
To receive a QR code, a certificate and similar documents, a PCR test is required. But taking into account that in Moscow, mass free antigenic diagnostics in the metro and shopping centers has already been deployed, we are on the way to implementing this as, for example, in the UK. There, an antigenic test is taken into account if there is a video showing how you do it.
So why, then, do we need express diagnostics for antigens?
Everyone who is not indifferent to their own health and the health of those around them wants to know what he got sick with. If there is a sore throat, a runny nose, and body aches appear, you should make sure that this is not a coronavirus, but a banal seasonal cold. If the diagnosis of COVID-19 is confirmed, you can immediately take measures for self-isolation in order to protect family, friends and work colleagues. Thus, express testing will help to minimize covid risks for an individual, his family, as well as for entire groups. Even if the person himself is mildly ill.
A coronavirus test will help to find out if a child who suddenly starts to have a fever or cough has become infected . The omicron variant, which has already been officially registered in Russia, has largely switched to children. According to reports from Africa, they get sick more often than the “delta”, and, the most unpleasant, more severe. It will be useful for parents to find out if it is time to sound the alarm. And at the same time, to prevent all contacts of the child with elderly relatives in a timely manner.
Periodic diagnostics will help monitor the health of people at risk : the elderly, diabetic, obese. If they have the opportunity to test themselves on their own, there will be less reason to worry about their health.
If you do a coronavirus test before visiting your grandparents or inviting them to your place, you can be sure that elderly relatives will not get infected. And, by the way, cancel the visit in case of a positive result.
If you are going on vacation or on a business trip abroad, a quick diagnosis before the trip will also not be superfluous. Yes, PCR will still have to be passed on arrival. But if the result of the express test turns out to be positive, you can cancel the trip so as not to find yourself in an unpleasant situation in a foreign country. Otherwise, you will be quarantined. And quarantine means extra spending on treatment, and in general, help in which case it is better to get at home.
For owners of small and medium-sized businesses, heads of departments and divisions, purchasing a batch of rapid tests for their employees can be a real salvation in a pandemic. Such testing will help to minimize covid risks in each individual company. After all, if in a small team all employees or at least 80 percent of them fall ill, the business will simply stop, which will inevitably entail losses.
Express testing of employees at work will allow:
- quickly identify patients, even if they have no visible signs of covid infection, and send for treatment.
- in the event of a threat of general infection, organize remote office work in order to preserve the health of employees as much as possible, and therefore their ability to work;
- minimize risks during New Year’s corporate events. In fact, this is the only way to create a covid-free zone. Neither the immune status, nor the day before yesterday or yesterday’s PCR is a guarantee of human safety here and now. Vaccinated people are capable of getting sick and spreading coronavirus (albeit to a lesser extent than unvaccinated ones), and PCR “goes bad” as soon as a person leaves the laboratory. You can only trust the analysis on the spot. Therefore, an antigen test is the only possible option for a reasonable price.
It is logical to carry out such testing right in the workplace at least once a week.
It is important to understand that even if you were vaccinated against Covid -19, diagnostics are still necessary. Vaccination is not a guarantee that you will not get the virus. Especially in the context of the spread of the genetic variant “omicron”. Even if you do not feel that you are sick, you will be a carrier, which means you will be able to pass it on to others .
The main advantage of antigen tests is instant results, the highest diagnostic accuracy and the ability to test yourself right at home or in the office.
But if rapid antigen tests are so good, why does the state only officially recognize PCR? To understand this, you need to know what methods of diagnosing Covid-19 exist in general and what their specificity is.
PCR, ANTIBODY AND ANTIGEN TEST – WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?
This is an officially recognized method for the diagnosis of Covid-19 at the state level in Russia. The essence of PCR is to determine the presence of viral RNA in the body. This is an extremely sensitive test, this is its advantage and … its disadvantage.
The fact is that, due to its high sensitivity, PCR detects not only the RNA of a live virus, but also its elements, which are retained in the body even after the immunity has already coped with the virus. Thus, in a practically healthy person who has already been ill with Covid-19 and is not dangerous to others, the PCR test may be positive. To say unequivocally that a person is contagious, only on the basis of PCR, is a rash decision.
Another disadvantage is that the delivery of the PCR test is possible only in laboratory conditions. This means that even if you are sick, you will not be able to quickly find out if it is a coronavirus. You will have to call a specialist who will take a smear, or go to the laboratory yourself. And then wait a day or two for the results of the study (this is for urgent diagnostics). And residents of the regions sometimes have to wait for the results of the PCR test for a week. And all this time you will not even know what you are sick with. And the main thing is whether you are contagious or not.
How to be in such a situation? Taking sick leave or going to work? Avoid contact with friends, colleagues and family? Do not take your child to the garden or not let him go to school? What if it’s just a mild cold? The PCR test will allow you to answer these questions only after a few days. And by the way, it will show a positive result, even if you have already recovered and are no longer contagious.
This diagnostic option allows you to identify whether antibodies to a specific type of virus have formed in the body. For the analysis, here you will need not a nasopharyngeal swab, but a blood test. Tests reveal the presence of IgM and IgG immunoglobulins in it.
But the peculiarities of infectious diseases are such that antibodies are produced by the body in response to the invasion of the virus, not immediately, but after some time. So, IgM will be found only 8-9 days after the onset of the disease, and IgG – approximately after 2 weeks. In this case, the symptoms of various forms of covid appear already on the third or fifth day after infection. Thus, antibody tests will not be able to answer the question in a timely manner: whether a person has become infected with Covid-19 or ordinary ARVI.
An antibody test is relevant when a person has already been ill with something, recovered and wants to know the level of antibodies in the body in order to understand whether he really had covid disease and what is his immune status.
Rapid test for antigen to coronavirus
This type of test is designed to detect protein antigens. What does antigen mean? In this case, it is a protein that carries signs of foreign information, i.e. the presence of Covid-19. Proteins are larger formations than RNA particles, so antigenic tests are less responsive to an already neutralized virus. This type of testing is best suited to determine if there is a viable, active virus in the body.
If with the help of a PCR test it is possible to determine that a person is SICK or HAS ALREADY HAS BEEN HAS recently, then a coronavirus antigen test will show that the person is SICK right now and that he is INFECTED.
The main convenience of antigen testing is that you do not need medical assistance. You will not have to take the result to the laboratory either. You will receive information about your condition here and now, without leaving your home, 10 minutes after the procedure is performed on your own.
The table will help to visually compare these three types of tests for the presence of coronavirus.
Thus, the easiest, most affordable, accurate and convenient way to determine if a person is sick with coronavirus right now is to do an antigen test.
So why, with all its advantages, the results of such testing are not accepted instead of PCR at the state level?
The fact is that the PCR test is done exclusively in laboratory conditions, while laboratories are required to report the results to the appropriate authorities. This is how the state receives accurate statistics on the incidence of Covid-19. If a person independently does express testing for an antigen, he may not report the results to anyone – the statistical mechanism breaks down.
In the UK, the result of an antigen test is accepted if a person has filmed a video of how he is testing and posted it on an appropriate resource. In other European countries, the test can be officially done at a pharmacy. Moreover, there are even official requirements for the frequency of antigen testing for some groups of citizens.
In the Russian Federation, for now, you will have to come to terms with the fact that in order to receive a QR code, certificates, exit permits, hospital, state payments and other official documents, it is still necessary to take PCR.
Once again. The fact that only PCR is officially accepted by the state does not exclude the value of rapid tests. It is express tests for antigens that allow everyone to test themselves independently in any situation. And at the same time, get a quick and accurate result, and, if necessary, take prompt action: exclude contact with others and start treatment in a timely manner.
WILL ANY ANTIGEN TEST WORK?
So, if you urgently need to check if you or your loved ones have coronavirus, you can go to the pharmacy and buy the first antigen test you like. By the way, at the checkout in the same “Pyaterochka” you can buy it along with food.
Everything is so, but not so …
Indeed, a variety of tests for antigens to coronavirus can be found in Russia today. According to a government decree, a simplified registration scheme applies to some drugs and medical devices, including covid tests. The list of documents and tests has become much smaller, and the requirements for them have been simplified to the level “I swear by my mother, everything is fine.” After studying the documentation, the supplier receives a certificate of registration. Now he can legally supply goods to Russia and sell them. Technically – even in “Pyaterochki” and “Magnets” near the house.
The state wanted to fill the market as quickly as possible with goods necessary in a pandemic. In Russia at that time there was an extremely shortage of masks, gloves, antiseptics, etc. Among such products were tests for the presence of covid. As a result, products appeared on sale that seem to have passed tests in our country, but this is not certain. Therefore, along with a quality product, NON-working tests penetrated the market.
In addition, some of the covid tests entered the Russian market bypassing the existing legislation. In principle, anyone, even people far from pharmaceuticals, could buy in bulk lots of tests of dubious origin. And then supply them with instructions in Russian printed on the knee and send them on sale. It is clear that there can be no question of any guarantees for accuracy in this case.
In addition, certain conditions must be observed when transporting and storing the test material.
- Tests are stored at temperatures from +2 to +30 degrees, they must not be frozen, exposed to sunlight, moisture and high temperatures.
- Accordingly, test systems are categorically forbidden to be transported in ordinary trucks – after all, the temperature on the street in winter in Russia can reach -30 degrees and below, and in summer it can rise to +40.
- What if the boxes with the systems are stacked in a damp basement, unventilated warehouse, or even left outside for some time during unloading?
In this case, the tests can get spoiled by the consumer. Not every even large and reputable company like the same grocery retailers has a clear idea of how such goods should be transported and stored. Simply because the trade in pharmaceuticals is outside the scope of its competence.
The most credible are the tests bought at the pharmacy. Chances are good that they were transported and stored correctly, and the material itself has passed clinical trials. The pharmacy chain is able not only to evaluate the product documentation and understand what is in front of it, but also to ensure compliance with all the requirements of regulatory documents.
5 POPULAR CORONAVIRUS ANTIGEN TESTS AVAILABLE IN RUSSIA – WHICH ONE TO CHOOSE?
To figure out which test should be trusted, let’s compare the main parameters of 5 express systems, which are now the most widespread and popular in Russia.
- NanoCare (South Korea);
- CareUS (South Korea);
- Realy Tech (China);
- NowCheck (South Korea);
- Standard Q (SD Biosensor) (South Korea).
So, the Realy Tech coronavirus antigen test was developed in China, the rest of the presented systems are manufactured in South Korea.
Immediately, we note that Realy Tech has no registration data in the instructions, on the packaging and even on the seller’s website. The rest of the test systems have registration certificates. True, NowCheck and Standard Q (SD Biosensor) have them dated 2020, and NanoCare and CareUS – 2021. In addition, Realy Tech and NowCheck do not have data on clinical trials in Russia. But the later the tests are carried out, the more likely the test will determine the presence of new variants of the virus, which appeared only in 2021, for example, the same “delta”. It is not a fact that a test tested in 2020 is capable of this.
Such characteristics of the test system as sensitivity and specificity are responsible for the accuracy of testing.
Sensitivity shows how much you can trust the test if there is a virus in the sample. The higher this indicator, the more accurate the diagnosis. But you need to understand that tests with a sensitivity of 100% simply do not exist – there is always a certain amount of error. Four of the systems under consideration have a sensitivity of about 90%. In the antigenic tests NanoCare and Standard Q (SD Biosensor), this indicator was confirmed by studies carried out in Russia. At the same time, NanoCare has a sensitivity of 96%, while NowCheck has 89%.
So in terms of sensitivity:
- NowCheck – 3 points out of 5;
- the rest of the tests have 5 out of 5.
Specificity is another important characteristic of a coronavirus antigen test. It shows how much you can trust the test readings if there is NO virus in the sample. 100% specificity – a guarantee that the test will not be positive if there is NO virus in the sample.
All of the above tests have a specificity of 100%, except for NowCheck. This system has an indicator of 97%.
Thus, in terms of specificity:
- NowCheck – 4 out of 5 points;
- the rest of the tests have 5 out of 5.
Ease of use
A sample for analysis is taken with a special cotton swab – a swab.
A swab is taken and then the material is placed in a buffer tube.
Then the material from the tube is applied to the test strip, where the result will be visible.
To understand how easy, simple and convenient it is to diagnose with an express system, it is worth talking a little about the possible ways of sampling. The procedure can be carried out in three ways:
- oropharyngeal, in which a sample is taken from the tonsils. It is very unpleasant, even painful. It is from the tonsils that a sample is taken for analysis for official PCR.
- nasopharyngeal, when the stick is inserted deep into the nasopharynx – the sensations are also not pleasant.
- nasal – in this case, the swab enters the nasal cavity quite shallowly, a little deeper than if you put your finger in your nose.
It is clear that when conducting an express test, one wants to minimize discomfort, especially if it is necessary to test a child.
All of the above express systems are designed for the collection of material by the nasopharyngeal method. However, studies have confirmed that it is permissible to use the nasal sampling method when using the NanoCare and CareUS tests – the result will still be accurate.
In the process of doing research at home, even the little things are important.
It is convenient to take the sample with a thin medium-hardness swab with a head large enough to provide sufficient material for the study. But in CareUS and Standard Q, the sticks are too soft, and in CareUS it is also bent in half in the package, which, of course, will complicate the insertion process. The NowCheck swab head is too miniature, so there are doubts about its ability to take enough material for the test.
In order not to think about how to keep the tube with the buffer solution in an upright position, it is good when it has a flat, stable bottom. But the manufacturers of Realy Tech did not take care of this and completed the test with a test tube with a rounded bottom, which you will have to hold in your hands all the time.
It is convenient when the buffer solution has already been placed in the test tube, but the Realy Tech manufacturers decided to solder it in a separate capsule – you will have to spend time opening it and pouring the solution into the test tube. And at the same time, you need to manage not to spill liquid and not to bring some foreign substance into the test tube. By the way, this manufacturer also does not have a filtering device when pouring from a dropper nozzle, so mucus from your nose will get on the test strip.
- NanoCare – 5 points out of 5;
- CareUS – 4;
- Realy Tech – 2;
- NowCheck – 3;
- Standard Q (SD Biosensor) – 3 points.
To avoid any problems with the test, it should be clear to everyone how to carry it out. And for this you need an instruction that meets the requirements approved in Russia at the legislative level. The quality of the instruction is another indicator of the legality of the test and the seriousness of the seller – you have to get confused with a good translation and print … It is clear that if you sell a frank “dummy”, then you comply with the requirements formally and at no special cost.
So, a good instruction should be:
- translated into Russian literary language;
- written in legible, not too small print;
- understandable to anyone with any level of education.
The sequence of actions must be clearly spelled out in it. Clear illustrations are appreciated. Following such an instruction, a person performs a series of correct actions and receives a reliable result.
All of the listed test systems are supplied with instructions, but the quality of these documents is different:
- NanoCare: description in good Russian, large enough font, clear clear illustrations;
- CareUS: the translation is somewhat tongue-tied, the font and illustrations are very small;
- Realy Tech: short instruction in “crooked” Russian, illegible small print;
- NowCheck: high-quality illustrations in color, but the quality of the translation suffers a little;
- Standard Q (SD Biosensor): large, clear illustrations, but font is difficult to read due to size.
Each of the test systems also has an additional bonus – a video tutorial. It would seem that this is great: it is better to see once how to correctly insert the swab, take a swab, what is the correct sequence of actions. It is much easier to repeat after the person who shows and explains how the analysis should be done.
However, the quality of the video instructions leaves much to be desired from all manufacturers, except for NanoCare. Only in the video for this test (available by the QR code on the package), the display is accompanied by the necessary clear explanations, attention is paid to the details of the process, the manufacturer’s contacts are indicated.
Instruction quality scores:
- NanoCare – 5+ (for an excellent add-on in a video version);
- CareUS – 4;
- Realy Tech – 2;
- NowCheck – 4;
- Standard Q (SD Biosensor) – 4.
Places of sale, delivery methods
This is an extremely important point. If the tests are stored in unsuitable conditions, no guarantee can be given for the accuracy of the result. Not every store or warehouse can provide the optimal storage temperature and humidity level in the room. If the temperature regime, optimal humidity and other transportation conditions are not observed, the consumer will buy the spoiled product. Transportation by ordinary trucks in 30-degree heat or severe frost is a violation of the necessary conditions, as well as storage in unsuitable warehouses.
Only large pharmacy chains can provide the correct conditions for the delivery and storage of pharmacy goods, which, of course, include test systems. It is they who have specially equipped transport and warehouses for storing this kind of goods. In addition, the activities of pharmacies are controlled by the state.
Estimates by distribution method (minimum score – sold only through online stores, 5 – sold only through pharmacies):
- NanoCare – 5;
- CareUS – 4;
- Realy Tech – 2;
- NowCheck – 3;
- Standard Q (SD Biosensor) – 4.
To compare the advantages and disadvantages of the considered test systems, for clarity, we have combined the main characteristics in a table.
|NanoCare Covid-19 Antigen (AG) Kit||CareUS||Realy tech||NowCheck||Standard Q (SD Biosensor)|
|Origin||South Korea||South Korea||China||South Korea||South Korea|
|Sensitivity||96% (94% according to the manufacturer)||96%||96%||89%||96% (84% according to the manufacturer)|
|Specificity||one hundred%||one hundred%||one hundred%||97%||one hundred%|
|Clinical trials in the Russian Federation||Conducted in 2021||Held in February 2021||There is no data||There is no data||Held in 2020|
|Recommended method of sampling biomaterial||Nasopharyngeal Oropharyngeal Nasal||Nasopharyngeal nasal||Nasopharyngeal||Nasopharyngeal||Nasopharyngeal|
|Quality of paper instruction||High, complies with RF standards. Large print, simple and clear illustrations||Medium, meets Russian standards, but too small A5 format.||Low. “Crooked” translation, bad illustrations.||The average. Does not meet Russian standards, there is not enough information.||The average. Complies with RF standards, large pictures, but very small print.|
|Availability of video instructions||Yes, excellent quality||Yes, but not too detailed||Yes, but not in Russian and without explanations||Yes, but made in a graphic version, without the participation of living people||Yes, of poor quality|
|Features of the complete set||Test tube with a flat bottom Swab of medium hardness, thin||Test tube with a flat bottom Swab, soft, thin, folded in half||A test tube with a rounded bottom. Medium-hard swab, thin buffer solution stored in separate ampoule||Test tube with a flat bottom Swab of medium hardness, thin, with a very small head for collecting material.||Test tube with a flat bottom Swab, soft, thin|
|Buy at the pharmacy||Yes (Sber EAPTEKA Sberbank)||Yes (“Pharmacy Economy”)||Not||Not||Yes (Samson-Pharma and a number of other pharmacies).|
|The total number of points scored based on the testing results||25 points||22 points||16 points||17 points||21 points|
|Price||1 400 rubles|
+ free shipping
|1 599 rubles|
+ delivery 240-500 rubles.
Total: 2 100 rubles.
|1 390 rubles + delivery 282-607 rubles.|
Total: 1 997 rubles.
|1 650 rubles + delivery 199 rubles.|
Total: 1 849 rubles .
|3,000 rubles + delivery 200-500 rubles.|
Total: 3,500 rubles.
Only NanoCare, CareUS and Standard Q (SD Biosensor) tests are distributed through pharmacy chains, and only NanoCare (in this form of release) are not sold anywhere else, except for the SBER EAPTEKA pharmacy chain.
Well, the price, of course. Always pay attention to the full shipping cost of the test. By itself, it can cost relatively little, as, for example, RealyTech. But taking into account the delivery, the price reaches almost two thousand rubles.
After a visual comparison of the test systems, it is clear that only NanoCare has no complaints about any of the parameters. Accordingly, this test system received the maximum possible number of points according to the results of our test – 25 points.
The NanoCare Rapid Test:
- high accuracy of results;
- three possible ways of taking material for analysis, and among them there is a nasal one – the easiest and most painless;
- convenient equipment;
- understandable, clear instructions that meet Russian standards, and an excellent video version of the instructions as an additional bonus;
- the lowest cost on the market.
At the same time, the test is all right with the permits, that is, it is sold legally and tested in Russia. The system is distributed ONLY through a network of pharmacies, which means that it is provided with proper transportation and storage conditions.
Alternatively, consider the CareUS test. It is also distributed through the pharmacy network of official licensed points of sale (with appropriate storage and transportation conditions), provides for a nasal sampling method, and is highly sensitive and specific. However, this system has disadvantages: the swab is not very convenient, which makes it difficult to take a sample, and the instruction is less convenient to study.
It is a wise decision to give a good rapid antigen test a permanent “residence permit” in every home and office medicine cabinet. It is useful to always have an accurate and fast tool on hand to check your health, and in modern conditions, antigen tests are certainly one of them.
Rapid and accurate testing for coronavirus can help minimize covid risks for you and your environment. The opportunity to test oneself at any time is not only a responsible attitude towards oneself and loved ones, towards colleagues and bystanders. The use of express tests is a manifestation of the correct civic position, which is especially valuable and important in the current difficult and alarming situation.