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Information about home testing kits for COVID-19 is often misleading

COVID-19 launched a pandemic of fear. People are afraid of getting this dangerous disease and no one knows what kind of future is ahead of us. And how do you know if your fever is actually just a flu or COVID-19? Home-testing kits became very popular in the midst of the pandemic, but do people understand how accurate they actually are?

Most countries provide COVID-19 testing for free. Home testing kits are simply not reliable enough for you to pay for them and trust their results. Image credit: Gesundheitsministerium Osttimors via Wikimedia

Scientists from the Universities of Birmingham and Warwick analysed 27 websites in the UK and US which were selling tests in May 2020. Researchers wanted to see how accurate those home-testing kits were and what kind of information is provided for the user. Scientists analysed information provided on the internet, looking for completeness and accuracy. And the results were shocking.

Out of 41 tests included in the study only 9 provided the name of the manufacturer. Only 10 said when to use the test. Sellers provided accuracy of 12 tests, but sensitivity and specificity information ranging from 97.5% to 100% for molecular tests and 100% for antibodies was provided for 27 of the 41 tests. However, only four of those tests had papers to support those claims. 12 out of 18 antibodies tests explained that a positive result does not mean that you now have an immunity from COVID-19. Scientists would like to remind people that currently there are no approved COVID-19 home-testing kits.

There is a reason why crucial information is often omitted from these websites – money. Manufacturers and sellers understand that people are buying these tests because they are afraid to fall victims of this pandemic. Therefore, sometimes they don’t bother explaining everything, because it’s simply not an important selling point. And sometimes they are just scamming people. 

Jon Deeks, co-author of the study, said: “It is crucial that all test users are given adequate and appropriate information to help them make safe and informed choices and best practice guidance should be developed to ensure the safety of these users. The role of the regulator in enforcing complete and accurate information should also be reviewed”.

So you should simply avoid these tests? Depending on what country you live in, it is probably providing some free testing opportunities. Those tests are infinitely more accurate and trustworthy. However, if you do buy these home-testing kits you have to be informed about their limitations.

It is also worth reminding that a positive result from antibodies test does not mean that you’re safe from COVID-19. It’s simply not true – manufacturers who choose to omit that information are tapping into people’s fears. There are cases when people got better and fell ill again. Also, the reliability of those tests is questionable. So just protect yourself and stay away from websites that are trying to scam you using your fear.


Source: University of Birmingham 

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