SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19 Testing: The Tower of Babel
Main Article Content
COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2, Pandemic, Molecular Diagnostic Techniques, Rapid Antigen Test, Pooling Test, Predictive Value of Tests, Public Health Surveillance, Screening
Background and aim: Testing represents one of the main pillars of public health response to SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19 pandemic. This paper shows how accuracy and utility of testing programs depend not just on the type of tests, but on the context as well.
Methods: We describe the testing methods that have been developed and the possible testing strategies; then, we focus on two possible methods of population-wide testing, i.e., pooled testing and testing with rapid antigen tests. We show the accuracy of split-pooling method and how, in different pre-test probability scenarios, the positive and negative predictive values vary using rapid antigen tests.
Results: Split-pooling, followed by retesting of negative results, shows a higher sensitivity than individual testing and requires fewer tests. In case of low pre-test probability, a negative result with antigen test could allow to rule out the infection, while, in case of a positive result, a confirmatory molecular test would be necessary.
Conclusions: Test performance alone is not enough to properly choose which test to use; goals and context of the testing program are essential. We advocate the use of pooled strategies when planning population-wide screening, and the weekly use of rapid tests for close periodic monitoring in low-prevalence populations.
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