For mass screening: Donât use rapid antigen test â DOH
A medical frontliners extracts blood from a resident of Cebu City at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

For mass screening: Don’t use rapid antigen test — DOH

Caecent No-ot Magsumbol (The Freeman) - December 21, 2020 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines — The Health Technology Assessment Council of the Department of Health is recommending the use of rapid antigen test only for a specific purpose and not for mass screening and COVID-19 diagnosis.

 Although rapid antigen test is cheaper and the result is way faster compared to real-time reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR), the DOH-HTAC said the latter remains the golden standard.

Rapid antigen test for COVID-19 is used to detect antigens or viral proteins in the body which cause an immune response and imply the presence of viral infection while RT-PCR detects genetic material. The rapid antigen test is also different from the rapid-anti body test, which is used to measure antibodies of individuals who have already recovered from COVID-19.

According to HTAC, the RT-PCR remains the gold standard test for diagnosis as it accurately determines the presence of coronavirus and if a person is currently infected.

Recent evidence shows that rapid antigen tests may be used for contact tracing, surveillance, and clinical management of patients with COVID symptoms. It is recommended for use to symptomatic COVID-19 patients only along with close contacts and those with a history of exposure. It may be used also in areas without access to RT-PCR confirmatory testing.

Similarly, the test may be used in grouping patients together in hospitals where it is important to enforce infection prevention and control measures and minimize disease transmission.

Rapid antigen test works best within five to seven days after a patient first experiences symptoms while close contacts of positive individuals may be tested from four to 11 days after exposure even before symptoms develop.

For symptomatic patients with negative rapid antigen test results, there should be confirmatory RT-PCR testing. Confirming those with negative antigen results using RT-PCR should be done within two days after the initial rapid antigen test.

In areas with no access to RT-PCR confirmatory testing, asymptomatic persons with negative antigen test results but a high likelihood of exposure should complete the 14-day quarantine.

In its evidence summary, the HTAC does not recommend the use of rapid antigen tests for indiscriminate use in mass screening. This includes the use for testing returning overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), return-to-work clearance, tourist clearance, land-stranded individuals (LSIs)) and COVID-19 diagnosis in individuals with low index of suspicion like asymptomatic and no history of exposure.  (FREEMAN)

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