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“The rapid covid test is an accurate way to determine if someone has cancer.”
You have a scratchy throat and a moderate headache on Friday. “Cold? Covid?” it’s time to play. The only game more popular than Wordle is “Or Just Crazy?”
Alternatively, you may open your medicine cabinet and turn on a little white box. Using a Lego-like stick, swab your nose, then slip it into the lighted device. Your iPhone buzzes 20 minutes later with the message “COVID-19 Positive.”
Is this the future? It’s already here, however. I’ve been trying the Cue Health Monitoring system and the Detect Covid-19 Test, two health-tech businesses that put lab-like molecular testing on your bathroom counter, for the last several weeks. There is no need to drive to the testing facility. There is no need to stand in line. There will be no days of waiting for the findings.
Covid-19 was a recent experience for me. I didn’t catch it to put these systems to the test, but I happened to have them on hand when the symptoms began. (I’m no longer alone and am feeling much better.) Thank you for inquiring.)
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Technology for Individuals
Joanna Stern and the rest of the Technology for Individuals team review new products and technologies.
As the number of people infected with Omicron has increased, at-home testing has become critical in halting the spread of the extremely dangerous variety. While at-home fast antigen testing are simple and inexpensive (and sometimes even free from the US government), more expensive molecular tests, like as PCR tests, are more sensitive and may detect the virus sooner. On Friday, the Detect system, which isn’t PCR but operates in a similar way, stated that I was positive, despite a negative antigen test conducted at the same time. A PCR test in the lab verified the findings.
The Cue system, which delivers results to the linked app, is on the left; the Detect system is in the center; and Abbott’s BinaxNow fast antigen test is on the right.
Photo courtesy of The Wall Street Journal’s Joanna Stern.
This precision comes at a cost. The Detect and Cue works similarly to a Keurig in that you own the equipment but must purchase single-use test pods. The Detect Hub costs $39, with each test costing $49. The Cue Reader costs $249, and a three-test set is $225. Meanwhile, a two-pack of at-home antigen testing costs about $20.
Are the more expensive, more precise choices worth it? If so, which one would you choose? I have to ask a lot of additional questions in order to answer them.
To begin, what are the differences between molecular and antigen tests?
To detect evidence of the virus, molecular tests (or, for you science geeks, nucleic-acid amplification tests) employ chemicals and equipment to amplify a sample’s genetic material billions of times. I imagine a little Sherlock Holmes inspecting my snot with a magnifying lens.
An antigen test, on the other hand, uses your nasal swab sample to identify viral protein on paper coated with antibodies. Those tests won’t catch a Covid-19 infection in its early stages, but they can determine if you have a lot of the virus. Some doctors refer to these as “contagiousness tests.”
So, are molecular testing preferable than antigen tests?
That was never spoken! “We have to ask ourselves, ‘What is the instrument that will perform the task that we care about?’” Michael Mina informed me of the situation. He works for eMed, a firm that authenticates and certifies at-home testing, as an epidemiologist and chief scientific officer.
The major advantage of molecular testing is that they may detect Covid sooner—anywhere from 6 hours to two days, depending on the variation and other circumstances. “If you’re truly symptomatic and you certainly want to know, ‘Is this Covid?’ ” said Dr. Mina, who previously worked as an advisor to Detect.
However, if you’re looking for a test to see whether you’re ready to return to work or school, the less expensive quick antigen test is the way to go. “The difficulty with a molecular test is that it might identify dead pieces rather than active virus,” said Peter Chin-Hong, an infectious disease expert at the University of California, San Francisco.
This was my experience. Cue and Detect claimed I was positive even 12 days after I initially exhibited symptoms and was feeling much better. By day nine, the antigen testing had shown that I was negative.
So, how do molecular testing at home work?
With so many stages in the Detect test, you’ll start to feel like a lab technician.
The Detect Covid-19 molecular test requires a significant amount of equipment and human participation; however, an app walks you through the process.
Photo credit: Detect
After swirling the supplied swab around your nose for 15 seconds, place it in a test tube with a specific liquid. The tube is then sealed with an enzyme-filled top and shaken like a salad dressing bottle. You put the tube in the Detect Hub for around 55 minutes, during which time the machine warms the sample to get the best results.
The Detect app, which includes a helpful step-by-step tutorial, will notify you when the tube is ready to be removed.
We’re almost there! You now squeeze extra liquid into a reader using a dropper. You insert your test tube in the reader’s chimney. The sample is poured into the reader, and you have to wait another 10 minutes for the results. If you have one line, you are negative, and if you have two lines, you are positive.
That’s a lot of information. What do you think about the Cue?
It would be more like the Cue if Apple released a home-testing kit. This may explain why Cue systems are being distributed to different individuals by Google, the National Basketball Association, Major League Baseball, and other businesses. Place the test cartridge in the Cue Reader, then wipe your nose with the fancy stick before inserting it into the cartridge. Your part has been completed.
To use the Cue Reader test, swab your nose with the stick and place it in the cartridge of the Reader gadget; the result appears on a smartphone app.
Photo courtesy of Cue Health
Your sample is combined with an enzyme within the box. The Cue Health HLTH -2.22 percent app, which is Bluetooth-connected to the Reader, displays how much time is remaining in the 20-minute procedure. When the timer runs out, the app displays the outcome.
(Another inexpensive at-home molecular test, the $75 Lucira CheckIt, is also available, but I didn’t have it when my Covid symptoms began.)
Can I put my faith in the outcomes of these systems?
It’s understandable to be concerned about lofty-sounding claims made by tech startups about miniaturizing lab diagnostics in the aftermath of the Theranos trial, but medical experts I spoke with said these systems aren’t revolutionary new approaches, but rather streamlined versions of tried and true ones.
External validation and assessment by the Food and Drug Administration were also highlighted by the corporations. When compared to a PCR test, the Detect showed 97.3 percent accuracy in clinical tests. The Cue test matched lab findings with 97.8% accuracy, according to an independent research conducted by the Mayo Clinic.
Should I put my faith in these firms with my personal information?
Detect does not save any information about you. To take the exam, you don’t even need to create an account, and you don’t have to submit your findings using the app (although you can if you want).
Cue necessitates the creation of an account and displays your findings through the app. Cue Health co-founder and CEO Ayub Khattak informed me that the firm doesn’t disclose or sell your information to other parties, and that any data obtained is de-identified and utilized exclusively to detect Covid-19 transmission tendencies.
Unlimited approved travel test results are included with Cue’s $90-per-month membership.
Photo courtesy of Cue Health
Is it possible to travel with these results?
Both firms charge an extra cost to proctor examinations through video chat, after which they provide you a legitimate certificate via email to share with your airline or airport security. Each test costs an additional $20 at Detect. Cue charges $90-per-month for unlimited, certified travel test results and in-app access to physicians, as well as 20 test packs per year. Antigen testing for travel are verified by other firms, including eMed.
Those costs are exorbitant! So, what am I to do?
Cue and Detect may be able to notify you if you’re ill with anything else in the near future. The businesses are also working on methods to test for flu at home. That’s the actual potential of both—our own personal health diagnostic computers. Hopefully, like with PCs, the price will drop.
For the time being, their high costs prevent them from being as helpful as fast antigen testing. According to Dr. Mina, the most beneficial test is one that can be repeated often. If money is a concern, the $20-plus kits available at CVS and Walgreens are a good option.
LET US KNOW WHAT YOU’RE CONCERNED ABOUT.
How much would you be prepared to pay for a next-generation Covid test that you could do at home? Participate in the discussion below.
Your initial investment—or subscription commitment—for molecular home testing is high if your firm isn’t paying for your kits. (Because at-home testing is sometimes reimbursed by insurance, verify with your provider or file a claim for reimbursement.)
The Detect Hub isn’t quite as high-tech, but it’s a good compromise. It’s just $39, and firm CEO Hugo Barra assured me that the $49 tests would soon be reduced in price—despite the fact that they often sell out at that price. So I went out and purchased one. When I have the itch to play “Cold? Covid?,” I appreciate the concept of having a very accurate test at home. Or am I going insane?”
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The “how accurate are at-home covid tests” is a question that has been asked many times. There are two types of at-home pregnancy test, the first being the At. The second type is the CVS which stands for Contraceptive Vaginal Strips.
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