Lateral flow tests ARE less effective at spotting Omicron, US health chiefs rule

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Covid lateral flows ARE less effective at spotting Omicron, US officials fear… but UK health chiefs insist there’s still no proof the variant can evade rapid swabs

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said new laboratory findings indicated the rapid kits — which give results in as little as 15 minutes — could still spot the highly-infectious variant.

But bosses warned they may have reduced sensitivity, meaning they could wrongly tell more infected people they are free of the virus. 

Doubts over the tests come as ministers and health officials in the UK urge people to take a lateral flow test before going out to meet people in an attempt to reduce the chances of people unknowingly passing the virus on to others.   

Lateral flow test kits, like the one pictured above are a cornerstone of the Westminster Government's plans to keep venues like nightclubs and pubs open with ministers urging revelers to take one before heading out to meet others in case they have Covid

Scores of Britons have complained over the Christmas period that they received a negative lateral flow result only later to test PCR positive.

But the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has insisted that data shows lateral flow tests are just effective at detecting Omicron.   

The number of lateral flow tests taken in England has risen significantly since the start if December with the 1million mark being breached multiple times as officials urged people to take a test before meeting others

The FDA’s statement was based on early data from new laboratory tests involving live samples of the the Omicron virus.

Like the UKHSA, the US agency has been analysing whether lateral flows are just as effective at detecting new Covid variants. 

The FDA previously tested the accuracy of the tests using samples of dead Omicron virus, and found they were just as effective.

Rose Bateman was another, who found herself with a negative result using a latera flow test for Covid but tested positive using a PCR tests later on the same day

But now lab tests using live samples of the virus have raised fresh doubts about their accuracy.

‘Early data suggests that antigen tests do detect the Omicron variant but may have reduced sensitivity,’ they said. 

However, the FDA is still advising people to use lateral flow tests, saying the findings are still at an early stage.

‘It is important to note that these laboratory data are not a replacement for clinical study evaluations using patient samples with live virus, which are ongoing,’ it said.

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