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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.

Does the KnowNow Test identify all COVID-19 mutations?

The mechanism underpinning the KnowNowᵀᴹ test mimics the means through which the virus interacts with the surface of a human cell in order to detect it. As a result, we expect that it will continue to identify the SARS-CoV-2 virus even in the face of further potential mutation in the future, unlike tests based on antibodies.

We have modelled the difference between the Wuhan and 501Y mutations in a recombinant protein model to give us initial analytical evidence that the KnowNow test reacts to these variations of concern. And we are currently carrying out a study on live samples of these and other mutations to gather practical evidence of this.

In fact, we predict that the KnowNowᵀᴹ test may potentially become even more sensitive as the virus mutates to become more infectious. And we will continue to carry out further analyses and studies to support this prediction, and confirm that KnowNow continues to function on newer mutations as they arise.

When do you recommend tests are performed?

We recommend that tests are performed at the earliest opportunity possible, to ensure that individuals in the workplace, venue or community don't come into contact with each other prior to testing.

There's no particular time of day that's best to perform a test. Although it is important that individuals haven't had anything to eat or drink, and haven't smoked, within the 30 minutes prior to taking the test.

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 soon after exposure would the KnowNowᵀᴹ Test give a positive result?

The KnowNowᵀᴹ test will show a positive result from day 3 or 4 after exposure to the SARS-CoV-2 virus. This is earlier than other rapid antigen tests, which usually start to show positive results around day 5 or later.

This also means that individuals will receive a positive KnowNowᵀᴹ test 1 or 2 days before they are at very high risk of infecting others. So where there is a regular testing programme in place, individuals can quickly be isolated before they become highly infectious and the spread of the virus can be prevented.

The basis for this is our analysis of models of viral load in disease progression, such as the one shown within "Test sensitivity is secondary to frequency and turnaround time for COVID-19 screening" by Dr Michael Mina et al, alongside the low limit of detection of the KnowNowᵀᴹ test of 50,000 to 200,000 viral copies per mL.

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

How specific is the KnowNowᵀᴹ Test?

The KnowNowᵀᴹ Test's specificity is 100%. In more than 700 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.

How long can unused KnowNowᵀᴹ Tests be kept before they expire?

The expiry date of KnowNowᵀᴹ Tests will be clearly marked on their packaging, and you can expect the shelf-life of each box of tests to be at least four months.

How long does a negative test result last for?

Receiving a negative result means that the individual tested does not have any live virus in the sample provided and is not currently infectious to others. However, it's important to be aware that they could still be exposed to the SARS-CoV-2 virus following the test. It could also be possible that the individual tested has already been exposed to the virus 1 or 2 days ago, and they have not yet become infectious to others.

As a result, we recommend that individuals are tested as regularly as possible to keep workplaces and communities safe. Depending on the scenario, we would recommend testing is repeated every 1 to 3 days.

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.

How accurate are your tests?

COVID-19 test accuracy is typically determined by ‘specificity’ and ‘sensitivity’.

Specificity is about the extent to which you can eliminate false positives; sensitivity is how much virus needs to be present before a test picks it up. So there is always a need to strike a balance, when testing, between trying to pick up the virus as early as possible, versus accidentally delivering a positive test result for someone who is not actually infected.

The specificity of the KnowNowᵀᴹ Test is 100%. In more than 700 negative patient saliva samples, we haven’t had a single false positive.

What’s important when it comes to sensitivity is how much virus needs to be present in the patient sample for the test to give a positive signal. This is known as the 'Limit of Detection', and we measure this rather than clinical sensitivity as it is much more informative. Our Limit of Detection is between 50,000 and 200,000 viral copies per mL, making our test more sensitive than other rapid antigen tests available. The Abbott BinaxNow test, for example, needs 1,000,000 viral copies per mL in order to get a positive signal. The KnowNowᵀᴹ Test's very low Limit of Detection means it 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 (based on models of viral load in disease progression).

If you'd like to read more about this subject, we recommend 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 Limit of Detection values for tests using universal standard metrics should be readily available in the public domain to enable like-for-like comparison.

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