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Isn't lateral flow testing less good than PCR testing?

There have been questions raised around the sensitivity of rapid lateral flow antigen testing for SARS-CoV-2 as compared to PCR testing. However, these questions have been strongly challenged by the scientific community.

PCR tests identify the presence of the SARS-CoV-2 virus in the body, regardless of whether the virus is actively infectious. The PCR testing process amplifies the genetic code of the virus so that even minuscule amounts of the virus in the sample can be picked up. This makes for a powerful test, but since viral fragments can linger in the body for weeks even after the infection has cleared, infected individuals being tested using PCR will show as positive for a median period of 22–33 days in total. On the other hand, most people infected with SARS-CoV-2 are contagious only for 4–8 days.

So whilst PCR testing for SARS-CoV-2 may have been considered the "gold standard" test up until now, it will by definition show different results when compared to lateral flow tests which aim to identify individuals based on viral loads which suggest they are within their infectious window. This discrepancy between what each test is actually testing for has caused some issues where PCR testing has been used to evaluate the effectiveness of lateral flow tests, such as in the mass testing rolled out in Liverpool in November 2020.

The KnowNowᵀᴹ Test goes a step beyond other lateral flow tests with its unique, patented detection mechanism which only shows a positive result when live infectious virus is identified in the sample. As a result, PCR tests will similarly show different results to the KnowNowᵀᴹ Test in certain cases, since they will show positive results even for individuals outside of their infectious period.

For a much more comprehensive and referenced answer, you may like to read "Clarifying the evidence on SARS-CoV-2 antigen rapid tests in public health responses to COVID-19" from the Lancet.

We have a vaccine now, do we need testing anymore?

Although vaccine rollout is progressing extremely quickly in the UK, the government expects that it will be the end of July 2021 before every adult in the UK has been offered their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. Second doses should be received around 12 weeks after the first, and so it is likely to be the end of October 2021 before every adult has received both doses.

In the meantime, whilst we await full vaccine rollout, regular rapid antigen testing offers a way to enable the re-opening of society.

Beyond this, it is also important to consider that no vaccine is 100% effective even after 2 doses, that not everyone will accept or be able to have the vaccine, and that there is uncertainty as to whether the vaccines will work effectively against current or future mutations of the virus. We should also consider the fact that the UK is very much ahead of other countries around the world in progressing its vaccine rollout, and that it will still be some time before the vast majority of people globally will be vaccinated.

With these factors in mind, regular testing is likely to play a role in keeping societies safe and open for some time to come.

Is KnowNowᵀᴹ approved and safe?

The KnowNowᵀᴹ test has been developed to Vatic's stringent standards of quality and safety.

It has undergone the necessary clinical trials and performance tests and has been shown to meet the specific requirements published by the UK's Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

The KnowNow test has been CE marked for professional use in a healthcare setting and has been registered for use in the UK and the EU.

I've already activated my sample pack

If you have already activated your sample pack please go to the activation link that we emailed to you. Alternatively, if you fill in your email again we will re-send the activation link to you.

How much space do I need to store the tests?

One box contains 25 tests, and measures 20cm (L) x 21cm (W) x 8cm (H).

The space required depends on how many tests you require at any given time. However, as the KnowNowᵀᴹ Tests can be stored at any temperature between 2 and 30 degrees, special storage facilities should not be required in the UK, unless there is unusually hot weather.

What is SARS-CoV-2?

Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is the name given by the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses (ICTV) to the virus responsible for causing the disease, COVID-19.

How have you validated the accuracy of your tests?

To date we have conducted three clinical studies. The first was a UK Government-supported National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) study across ten UK hospitals; the second was with Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, and the third is a community study that we have led ourselves. We have also carried out our own analytical assessments, as well as two Public Health England analytical assessments.

We have worked with over 300 negative patient samples and around 100 COVID-19 positive patients across our studies. We are also currently carrying out a 650+ patient clinical trial with sites in the UK, USA and Brazil to provide us with a higher volume of clinical data, and with a view to additional regulatory approvals to widen the reach of the impact we can have globally in pandemic recovery.

What is the limit of detection of the KnowNowᵀᴹ Test?

The Limit of Detection (LoD) is the smallest amount of virus in a sample that a given device can consistently detect.

The Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine carried out an analytical study of the KnowNowᵀᴹ test, which determined that the LoD is 500 plaque-forming units per millilitre (PFU/ml). Based on accepted models of viral load in disease progression, this very low LoD suggests that the KnowNow test can detect infected people as early as day 3 to 4 of infection. This is before they become highly infectious, and a day or two earlier than most tests available.

In the absence of a single study that compares the LoD of KnowNowᵀᴹ to that of other tests, it is not possible to do a like-for-like comparison of the LoDs of different lateral flow tests determined by different studies. This is because there wouldn't be parity across cell cultures and strains of the virus used in the different studies. Additionally, it's important to consider that what the KnowNowᵀᴹ test detects is fundamentally different from other tests. KnowNowᵀᴹ is a true infectivity test which looks exclusively for the spike protein only present on active SARS-CoV-2 viruses. Whereas other lateral flow tests detect the nucleocapsid protein encapsulated in the centre of the virus, which can be present whether the virus is active or not.

The PFU/ml measure, as used in the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine KnowNowᵀᴹ analytical study, is a measure of only the number of virus particles capable of forming plaques in a given sample - viral particles that are defective or which fail to infect their target cell will not produce a plaque and so are not counted by this measure. No inference can be made about the relationship of PFU to the overall number of viral particles in the sample, since this will differ from sample to sample.

Since the KnowNow test specifically detects infectious viral particles only, an LoD measured in PFU/ml is an informative and appropriate measure. However, for other lateral flow tests which indiscriminately detect active and inactive viral particles, an LoD referencing PFU/ml is not particularly informative or comparable to the KnowNowᵀᴹ LoD. For example, the sample used to determine LoD may have had a very low PFU/ml, but many inactive viral particles which were detected by the test. Ultimately, other lateral flow tests are not true tests for COVID infectivity, they do not detect only infectious virus like the KnowNowᵀᴹ test does.

If you'd like to read more about this subject, we recommend reading this paper. It argues that the "Limit of Detection matters and directly impacts efforts to identify, control, and contain outbreaks during this pandemic" since "higher LoD are likely to miss nonnegligible fractions of infected individuals." It also makes the case that LoD values for tests should be benchmarked against a universal standard and readily available in the public domain to enable like-for-like comparison of SARS-CoV-2 detection methods.

How long will it take a qualified clinician to administer each test?

From our own studies with partners, we estimate that a clinical professional can administer one test every 3.5 to 4 minutes. This assumes that they collect saliva samples from individuals, set the KnowNowᵀᴹ Test devices aside to develop for 15 minutes, and collect samples from further individuals before reading the results from earlier tests.

Why test people who don't have symptoms?

SARS-CoV-2 is able to spread from individuals who are pre-symptomatic or asymptomatic. As a result, testing and isolation based on symptoms alone will not be sufficient to stop the spread.

This narrative review of 16 clinical studies around the globe concludes that between 40-45% of those infected with SARS-CoV-2 never develop symptoms, and that these asymptomatic carriers can infect others for an extended period, perhaps longer than 14 days.

Regular community testing with a rapid antigen test like the KnowNowᵀᴹ Test to identify asymptomatic, but infectious, individuals offers one way to break the chain of transmission and enable the re-opening of societies.

What is a KnowNowᵀᴹ Test?

The KnowNowᵀᴹ Test is the UK's only on-the-spot COVID-19 test that uses just your saliva to tell you if you are currently able to infect someone else with COVID-19.

Unlike other tests, the KnowNowᵀᴹ Test won't give you a positive result if you have been exposed to the SARS-CoV-2 virus in the past, but are no longer able to infect other people.

Had COVID - 19 symptoms in the last 2 days? Apply here to help us make testing accessible to all.