The FDA has issued emergency use authorization for two diagnostic COVID-19 antigen tests as of July 7, 2020. This new category of test is making its way with unique benefits and risks.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced its second emergency use authorization (EUA) for antigen testing to now include the BD (Becton Dickinson) SARS-CoV-2 antigen test.
The EUA announced July 6, 2020, describes this as a point-of-care test marketed as the BD Veritor System for Rapid Detection of SARS-CoV-2. The test can only be operated under a CLIA Certificate of Waiver, Certificate of Compliance, or Certificate of Accreditation.
With the release, FDA Commissioner Stephen M. Hahn, MD, emphasized the role of antigen tests, describing them as a point-of-care test that “can potentially scale up to test millions of Americans quickly.”
Antigen tests have been recognized for their speed in providing results in minutes, at a lower cost, according to the FDA in a May 9 statement. “However,” notes the agency, “antigen tests may not detect all active infections, as they do not work the same way as a PCR test. Antigen tests are very specific for the virus but are not as sensitive as molecular PCR tests.
“This means that positive results from antigen tests are highly accurate, but there is a higher chance of false negatives, so negative results do not rule out infection. With this in mind, negative results from an antigen test may need to be confirmed with a PCR test prior to making treatment decisions or to prevent the possible spread of the virus due to a false negative,” stated FDA guidance at the time of the first EUA for a COVID-19 antigen test.
The FDA provides a list of EUAs that have been granted for SARS-CoV-2 antigen tests. This list will be updated as more EUAs for COVID-19 antigen tests are issued.