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What is a lateral flow test?

A lateral flow test is a simple diagnostic device designed to detect the presence or absence of a target substance in a liquid sample without the need for specialised and costly equipment.

The most commonly recognised type of lateral flow rapid test strip is the pregnancy test.

Where do you make your KnowNowᵀᴹ tests?

KnowNowᵀᴹ Tests have been invented, developed and manufactured in the UK.

How does KnowNowᵀᴹ compare to COVID-19 PCR tests?

KnowNowᵀᴹ offers two key benefits over polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests.

The first benefit is that the KnowNowᵀᴹ test needs only a saliva sample, which can be taken easily and comfortably from the mouth. PCR tests usually need a nasopharyngeal, anterior nasal or tonsil sample, all of which are painful and unpleasant for the individual being tested and more challenging to collect effectively for the clinical professional administering the test. No one wants to be made to cry or gag, or make someone else cry or gag, on a regular basis!

The second benefit is that the KnowNow test uses its unique detection mechanism to determine whether an individual is actually infectious, whereas PCR tests identify whether SARS-CoV-2 viral matter is present in an individual's body, regardless of whether it is already inactive.

Although PCR tests have been seen as the "gold standard" test for the SARS-CoV-2 virus, they do have a number of drawbacks. Laboratory processing is required, meaning that there is a delay before results can be returned, and the associated costs are relatively high. Also the detection mechanism does not specifically identify whether individuals are infectious. In fact, PCR tests detect the virus long after the infectious period, and individuals can continue to test positive for a mean of 17 days after they have stopped being able to infect others (source). This means that people who are not infectious are unnecessarily quarantined as a result of a positive PCR test.

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 specific is the KnowNowᵀᴹ Test?

The KnowNowᵀᴹ Test's specificity is 99.9%. In more than 300 negative patient saliva samples, it hasn’t returned a single false positive result.

This is so important for getting life back to normal. We don't want anyone to be stopped from going to work, heading off on holiday or socialising at events, when actually it would be perfectly safe for them to do these things.

Specificity is particularly important when disease prevalence is low and tests are intended to be used at enormous scale. For example, if a test with just a 3% false positive rate is used on one million people per day, that would result in 30,000 people per day being falsely identified as infectious with COVID-19 and being unnecessarily asked to self-isolate.

Are you taking shortcuts or risks by developing the KnowNowᵀᴹ Test so quickly?

No, we're not taking any shortcuts or risks. The KnowNowᵀᴹ test has been precisely developed, rigorously tested, and approved by the necessary bodies.

As with COVID vaccine development, the speed at which we’ve been able to move has been accelerated by the enhanced support and focus afforded to the sector by all stakeholders, such as the government, the pharmaceuticals industry, academic institutions and so on.

We have conducted two clinical studies. The first was a UK Government-based study across ten UK hospitals; the second was with Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine. We have also carried out our own analytical assessments, as well as two Public Health England analytical assessments.

The KnowNowᵀᴹ Test has been CE marked for professional use within a healthcare context and is approved by the UK's Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

How frequently should employees or visitors be tested?

We recommend that individuals are tested as regularly as possible to keep workplaces, venues and communities safe.

It is important to remember that individuals can still go on to be exposed to the virus following a negative test result. Additionally, a high proportion of infectious people show no symptoms at all, and so regular testing is key to breaking the chain of transmission.

Depending on the scenario, we would recommend that testing is performed every 2-3 days, or daily, depending on the scenario.

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.

Who is Vatic?

Vatic is a predictive health company focused on making medicine more proactive. We deliver on-the-spot tests which detect subtle biomarkers in people’s bodies to predict illness before it becomes acute or infectious.

Our first product is KnowNowᵀᴹ, a rapid turnaround COVID-19 antigen test, that is designed to identify COVID-positive people before they become highly infectious*, based on just a small saliva sample.

Why does the KnowNowᵀᴹ test use a saliva sample?

We chose to design our unique KnowNowᵀᴹ test for COVID-19 infectiousness to work with a simple saliva sample, so that it would be comfortable and easy to administer, and to ensure that anyone would be happy to take a test every day if required. We believe that patient comfort and happiness leads to increased participation in routine testing, and ultimately increases the probability that COVID positive patients can be detected before they've had a chance to infect others.

The focus of our first clinical study was to assess the feasibility of using saliva sampling, to refine our saliva collection method, and also to assess the overall usability of the KnowNow test. This was a UK Government-supported National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) study carried out across ten UK hospitals with 100 patients participating. Through this study we determined that saliva sampling was both effective and user-friendly, and identified a specific swab for sampling. We chose not to opt for a spit collection method for our saliva sample, as providing a spit sample can be challenging for some patients, particularly the elderly or those suffering with COVID-19 symptoms.

For other COVID-19 tests, throat and nasopharyngeal swabbing is one of the most common types of sample collection. However, a number of studies have explored various issues with these types of sample collection, including:

  • The sample collection method requires a swab to be inserted into the patient's throat and/or far into their nostril and rotated, causing discomfort to patients due to the procedure’s invasiveness, and even inducing bleeding in their tonsils and posterior pharynx. (1)
  • The discomfort or even pain of the sample collection method has a detrimental impact on compliance for serial testing, as patients are unwilling to subject themselves to the test on a regular basis. (2)
  • Nasopharyngeal sample collection presents a considerable risk to healthcare workers, because it can induce patients to sneeze or cough, expelling virus particles. (2)
  • There are several situations where nasopharyngeal swabs would cause particular harm, such as in patients with coagulopathy, those undergoing anticoagulant therapy, or those with significant nasal septum deviation. (3)
  • These tests are not always successful at the first attempt, even though performed by trained healthcare workers, and shortages of swabs and protective equipment are frequently reported. (3)
  • They show relatively poor sensitivity for SARS-CoV-2 detection in early infection and are inconsistent during serial testing. (2)

Some tests have been designed to work with anterior nasal swabs, as a somewhat less invasive alternative to nasopharyngeal swabs. However, there is some evidence to suggest that nasal swab testing produces less sensitive results and may miss patients with lower viral loads (4).

References:

(1) Exploring salivary diagnostics in COVID-19: a scoping review and research suggestions

(2) Saliva is more sensitive for SARS-CoV-2 detection in COVID-19 patients than nasopharyngeal swabs

(3) Saliva as a Candidate for COVID-19 Diagnostic Testing: A Meta-Analysis

(4) Nasal-Swab Testing Misses Patients with Low SARS-CoV-2 Viral Loads

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