COVID-19 Business Intelligence and Analysis for Clinical Laboratories, Pathology Groups and Hospital Administration

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Demand for SARS-CoV-2 Antigen Tests Shows No Signs of Slowing as Netherlands Orders 9.2 Million Tests from BD

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COVID-19 antigen tests come to Europe as the Netherlands order 9.2 million of the rapid point-of-care tests from BD

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the demand for rapid, point-of-care (POC) testing has led to significant interest in COVID-19 antigen testing. This form of testing is less sensitive than PCR testing, but can be performed and resulted in minutes at the point of care. Such added convenience has increased the popularity of SARS-CoV-2 antigen testing and allowed for applications that may not be feasible with traditional PCR testing.

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While COVID-19 antigen testing has grown in popularity within the United States, an important milestone in the use of this antigen testing—as an alternative to PCR testing—has been reached abroad. BD (Becton, Dickinson and Company) announced Nov. 2, 2020, that the company has received an order for 9.2 million of its COVID-19 antigen tests from the Dutch Ministry of Health in the Netherlands.

The Netherlands recently implemented a national structure to ensure a systematic distribution of SARS-CoV-2 testing and supplies. The BD order for the BD SARS-CoV-2 antigen test marks the first time that a European government has requested this kind of test, and the development plays an important role in the trend of increased use of COVID-19 antigen tests.

“We’re proud to be working with the Dutch Ministry of Health to expand rapid testing for SARS-CoV-2. This test will be critical to aid rapid diagnosis and decision making,” said Fernand Goldblat, Vice President and General Manager of Integrated Diagnostic Solutions, Europe at BD. “This rapid game-changing test is the latest effort in BD’s comprehensive response to address the world’s critical health needs during the global pandemic.”

BD expects to deliver 1.2 million tests within the first few weeks of this order, and the company anticipates delivering all 9.2 million tests by mid-2021, according to a recent press statement. While the Netherlands is currently the only country to have ordered these SARS-CoV-2 antigen tests, some think it is likely that other countries will follow suit.

Clinical laboratories should be aware of the continuing trend toward the use of COVID-19 antigen tests, especially as use of this form of testing gains traction internationally. Antigen tests may pull away some COVID-19 test volumes from clinical laboratories that perform PCR-based testing. Labs may also perform antigen testing, but the fact that antigen testing can be administered at the point-of-care allows any entity that has a CLIA certification to perform this type of test.

SARS-CoV-2 Antigen Test Popularity Brings Two Opportunities for Clinical Laboratories

The good news is that with so many consumers and employers concerned about the wait time for COVID-19 test results, clinical laboratories may be able to increase their COVID-19 testing volumes by developing a segmented test line for those that prefer antigen testing over the longer-to-result PCR testing.

Additionally, antigen testing also allows laboratories the opportunity for follow-up PCR testing to patients who are antigen positive. The federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued an alert Nov. 3, 2020, about the potential for false-positive results with antigen tests for SARS-CoV-2 and added the need for follow-up testing when appropriate. Clinical laboratories that perform COVID-19 antigen testing may be better positioned to offer these follow-up tests.

While antigen testing seems to be on the rise both in the United States and across the world, clinical laboratory leaders can plan to capitalize on these trends.

Caleb Williams

—By Caleb Williams, Editor, COVID-19 STAT

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