Adapted from Dr. Jay Park, MD’s article in Medium on April 15th, 2020.
There are many different COVID test kits available from many different sources. Of course, not all of the available tests have equal efficacy.
It is important to be aware that the FDA has put out emergency use authorizations for equipment related to the COVID crisis. This means that kits do not necessarily have to be evaluated by the FDA but rather must test reports must contain the following four statements:
(1) This test has not been reviewed by the FDA.
(2) Negative results do not rule out SARS-CoV-2 infection, particularly in those who have been in contact with the virus. Follow-up testing with a molecular diagnostic should be considered to rule out infection in these individuals.
(3) Results from antibody testing should not be used as the sole basis to diagnose or exclude SARS-CoV-2 infection or to inform infection status.
(4) Positive results may be due to past or present infection with non-SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus strains, such as coronavirus HKU1, NL63, OC43, or 229E.
Even tests coming from within the United States, such as the Abbott RealTime SARS-CoV-2 assay, had not yet published information on their reliability as of April 15th, 2020. Meanwhile, China has created a list of its approved test kits.
There are three important takeaways from this information:
1. Certain tests for COVID-19 are more reliable than others. Know what test you are being offered.
2. Talk to your provider about what the results of your test mean for you.
3. It is possible that if you are being tested for the virus, you will need to take more than one test.