COVID-19 Rapid Tests
As of November 1st, 2021, the TGA has approved Covid-19 Antigen Self-Tests for use at home and at workplaces.
There are 2 types of TGA registered test kits available for use. the Covid-19 Clinical Tests are for use under the supervision of an AHPRA registered Health Practitioner and the
Covid-19 Self-Tests may be used by the general public and workplaces that do not have a registered Health Practitioner available to supervise the testing.
For workplaces intending on testing their employees at the workplace, training is recommended to ensure the tests are conducted correctly and that the collector reports the results to the correct authorities per the current legislation.
Details on training are available by clicking here.
Covid-19 Antigen and Antibody Tests for use in a clinical setting with a Health Practitioner.
COVID-19 Test Methods
There are various test methods available for the detection of Covid-19. For testing in a workplace only antigen testing may be performed and then all positive cases are referred for a PCR laboratory test to confirm the initial result.
The 3 available methods are:
Rapid Antigen Screening Test – Point of Care test
Rapid Antibody Screening Test - Point of Care test and Laboratory Test
PCR Tests – Molecular Laboratory test
What is a Rapid Antigen Screening Test?
Antigen tests detect protein (antigens) on the surface of SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) directly from a sample taken with a swab inserted into the nose.
The main advantages of antigen tests over PCR tests include their lower cost and their speed. Most antigen tests are designed to be used at the point of care, with results available in about 15 minutes. They cost roughly about $20 per test.
So far, the strongest published evidence to support the use of antigen tests is in symptomatic people within the first few days of their symptoms starting, when the amount of virus in nasal secretions is highest.
In other words, antigen tests are most accurate when the viral load is highest and when a person is likely to be most infectious. If an antigen test is taken either too early or too late in the course of infection, it may not detect the virus.
With this in mind, compared to a “one-off” antigen test, repeated antigen testing (for example, daily or every 2-3 days) may improve the detection of the virus, particularly in people who don’t have symptoms, or when there’s a low level of disease in the community.
What is a Rapid Antibody Screening Test?
Antibody screening tests detect whether a person has antibodies to SARS-CoV-2. It is an immunoglobulin test and measures the level of certain immunoglobulins, or antibodies, in the blood. Antibodies are proteins made by the immune system to fight antigens, such as bacteria, viruses, and toxins.
They are two-phase in that they usually test IgM and IgG antibodies.
Immunoglobulin M (IgM), which is found mainly in the blood and lymph fluid, is the first antibody to be made by the body to fight a new infection. Testing positive for IgM indicates a current infection. These are usually detectable within 1-2 weeks of infection.
Immunoglobulin G (IgG), the most abundant type of antibody, is found in all body fluids and protects against bacterial and viral infections. Testing positive for IgG indicates a person has previously had COVID-19 and has built up a level of immunity to the virus. These are usually detectable within 2-4 weeks of infection.
Rapid antibody testing can be performed as a screening test at point of care via a finger-prick test. Antibody tests can also be used to test whole blood, serum and plasma in a laboratory.
Good quality Antibody tests are relatively accurate with levels of up to 98% accuracy when compared to PCR tests.
What is a PCR Test?
Also called a molecular test, this COVID-19 test detects genetic material of the virus using a laboratory technique called polymerase chain reaction (PCR). A fluid sample is collected with a nasal swab or a throat swab, or you may spit into a tube to produce a saliva sample. Results may be available in minutes if analysed onsite or a few days — or longer in locations with test processing delays — if sent to an outside laboratory. PCR tests are very accurate when properly performed by a health care professional.
A positive PCR test indicates you are currently infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
The role of Antigen testing in schools, workplaces, clinical and non-clinical settings.
Rapid Antigen COVID-19 screening sites can be established to mitigate against outbreaks in workplaces, aged care facilities and schools as well as increasing local testing capacity.
The objectives of establishing a rapid antigen COVID-19 screening site include:
• To promote early detection of community-acquired COVID-19 cases by maintaining a testing schedule for individuals every two to three days; and
• To support and encourage workers in industry and students in schools to get tested by making testing access easy and convenient.
Establishing Rapid Antigen Testing COVID-19 screening sites can provide increased testing capacity to areas of need, promote testing in areas with low testing rates and to mitigate against outbreaks in priority settings including workplaces, aged care facilities and schools.
Rapid antigen screening is one pathway to increase testing for COVID-19; particularly for people who reside and/or work in a priority setting. The addition of rapid antigen screening to the mix of options in Australia increases access to screening for COVID-19 as well as provides extra convenience to people who are required to test more frequently.
Below are the detection phases for each type of test:
What is coronavirus and how is it spread?
The term coronavirus refers to a family of viruses, some causing illness in people and others that circulate among animals. The SARS-CoV-2 strain was first identified in Wuhan, China in December 2019. Public health officials have identified the source of this virus in bats and are investigating its spread from animal to human and human to human. It is typically spread by respiratory droplets from coughs or sneezes, similar to the way flu and other respiratory viruses spread.
What is the incubation period for COVID-19?
Infectious disease experts have determined that symptoms can begin within 14 days of initial exposure to the virus.
What are the primary symptoms?
Primary symptoms are:
Shortness of breath
If you have any of the above symptoms, contact your healthcare provider right away.
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