21 October 2020
Unilabs rolls out Covid-19 antigen tests across its network
Geneva, 23 October 2020: Unilabs, the leading European diagnostic provider, is rolling out Covid-19 antigen tests across its diagnostic network after a thorough validation. The company is also securing formal approval from the relevant health authorities.
“When used correctly, antigen testing represents a valuable addition to the Covid-19 testing portfolio,” said Dr Christian Rebhan, Unilabs’ Chief Medical and Operations Officer. “The main benefit of antigen testing is speed. Results are ready in minutes rather than hours, enabling quick identification and isolation of Covid-19 cases among symptomatic individuals.”
Antigen tests detect the presence of specific viral proteins, which imply current viral infection. They are best used in symptomatic individuals with high viral loads, after the onset of the first symptoms.
Antigen testing is also useful in high-risk settings where fixed groups of individuals need testing on a repeated, ongoing basis to prevent widespread transmission, for example at long-term care facilities or hospitals. Here, antigen testing serves as a useful first line of defence, especially where PCR testing is not available, helping to quickly identify symptomatic Covid-19 patients.
However, current antigen tests are less sensitive than PCR and other equivalent RNA-based tests. As a result, they will miss infections in patients with low viral loads, for example soon after infection and among asymptomatic Covid-19 patients. In both scenarios, patients may be infectious to others.
That is why antigen testing can only complement and not replace PCR testing, which remains the most reliable way to test asymptomatic patients for Covid-19. Antigen testing is not recommended for population screening through current track and trace programs, given the high level of false negatives, which may foster a false sense of security and enable the virus to spread further.
“Our current expectation is that antigen testing will start seeing greater use as of November, as test kits are validated, approved for usage by local authorities and start becoming more widely available,” said Dr Rebhan. “A thorough understanding of the benefits and limitations of antigen testing will be crucial to ensure appropriate usage and to contain the imminent risk of false-negative results.”
At Unilabs, qualified healthcare professionals advise physicians, patients and other stakeholders on the most appropriate Covid-19 test for their respective situation and arrange for professional sample taking.
Alistair Hammond, Director of Communications
t: +44 771 773 0441
Unilabs is one of Europe’s largest diagnostics companies. It offers a complete range of laboratory, pathology and imaging services for patients all around the world. With 12,700 employees across 150 imaging centres and 250 labs in 17 countries, we perform more than four million lab tests a week – saving lives every single day.