In the United States, testing for Covid-19 has become a persistent problem. For some without insurance, it is too costly. For others living in remote or underserved areas, too inaccessible. For us all, far too slow.
While some tests take only a few minutes to complete, most tests take much longer to deliver results. If the person awaiting results isn’t cautious, the time needed to process samples in a lab—anywhere from a few days to a few weeks—becomes time enough for the virus to spread far and wide.
The two-step method is not only a better way to test, but could potentially reduce transmission by 50 percent or more—and do so quickly.
The two-step testing method combines antigen tests together with PCR tests such that the strengths of both are exploited. The first step? Conduct widespread antigen tests using existing testing facilities. Those who test positive are assumed to be infected and instructed to self-isolate at home, where they can be monitored by local health authorities. Within 24 hours a contact tracing team interviews them about recent contacts who may have been infected, all of whom are brought in for testing as well.
Those who test negative proceed to the second step—the PCR test with a slower turnaround, but more accurate result. Until the PCR test results confirm or disprove their negative status, those who test negative the first time around must quarantine. Either way, the virus is stopped in its tracks.
In India, this two-step takedown is already underway. In Egypt, it was successfully used to screen 68 million Egyptians for hepatitis C, though with antibody tests instead of antigen tests as a first step. It could be implemented just as easily here, where the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has already approved a rapid antigen test with a higher detection rate than the Pathocatch.
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