The message is – ‘Don’t stop testing!’

COVID infection rates are reported to be rising in Spring 2022 across the UK for what seems to be a multitude of reasons; including the emergence of the next more infectious variant BA.2.

The rise is slightly surprising as the 2021/2022 season for winter respiratory coronaviruses should be coming to an end. Clearly the SARS-CoV-2 virus hasn’t yet settled into the usual coronavirus infection pattern just yet.

Dr. Chris Stanley PhD FRSB

If you are planning to visit a vulnerable relative; or you, or a member of your family have symptoms that might or might not be COVID, or you’ve been in contact with somebody who was infected with SARS-CoV-2 virus then you really should get yourself tested, even if asymptomatic. In the riskiest scenario; that elderly relative for example, the highest sensitivity (and therefore greatest peace of mind) is provided by a PCR test; requiring a dry swab for a simple nasal sampling process which is either posted to the laboratory or dropped off at collection points – results are returned from the laboratory in 4 hours on receipt of the swab sample in one of our laboratories.

The PCR test process looks directly at two different viral genes and also includes a human gene control to check that the swabbing process was conducted correctly. All three genes (viral and human) must be detected correctly for the test to be reported as positive, if there is any failure in the test process any reputable laboratory, including ours,  will repeat the test and if still not satisfactory then a re-swab will be requested just to be on the safe side.

An alternative to PCR is a lateral flow device, this detects the proteins that make up the structure of the virus instead of the viral genes directly; this can give an immediate result in the home or office and there is the option of uploading a picture of the result for trained experts to evaluate on your behalf. Lateral flow tests are more robust than PCR as they are far less complex, but are less sensitive, so it’s a ‘trade-off’ between convenience and test performance.

Although lateral flow devices are simple to use it’s surprising how many low positive results or inconclusive test results can be difficult to interpret; a problem that can be circumvented easily by using our online verification service.

Chris Stanley PhD FRSB