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The future of at-home testing

Published: May. 11, 2022 at 7:19 AM PDT|Updated: May. 11, 2022 at 7:20 AM PDT
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PORTLAND Ore. (KPTV) - COVID-19 tests have changed the game when it comes to testing for a disease or medical condition. Consumers are now more comfortable doing it themselves, and at home.

At-home tests are not necessarily new. Pregnancy tests and HIV tests have been available over the counter for years, but COVID tests have made monitoring one’s health simpler.

Because of that an OSU professor said we should expect similar tests like these soon.

“There’s been variable reports of sensitivity, specificity in terms of false positives, false negatives,” said Justin Sanders, assistant professor in biomedical sciences at OSU

He said overall, at-home rapid tests combined with PCR tests have helped slow the spread of COVID-19.

“It’s definitely increased people’s awareness of, you know, really having accurate information moving forward,” he said.

Accurate health information is important. So much so that at-home test manufacturers are hoping to detect much more than COVID.

“I do think that flu will be the next one available. It just makes the most sense. You know, the other important respiratory virus that has the potential for epidemics and pandemics,” said Sanders.

He said the technology is already there to quickly test someone for the flu. It’s now a matter of packaging the test for the public in a way the FDA is comfortable with.

“And we already have several authorized tests that are available for home collection and then they’re mailed to a laboratory for testing. So an at-home test, I believe, is on the horizon,” said Sanders.

Like COVID, Sanders said it’s important to know if you have the flu early. To protect others and to protect yourself.

“Antivirals are available and quite effective and very underutilized, particularly for influenza. And so the more testing we can get out into the community, so people know when they’re positive, they can then if it’s early enough, get antivirals to really minimize the impact and morbidity and mortality of flu. I think that’s a win,” he said.

Sanders says at-home tests don’t have to stop there.

“If we imagine kind of an optimal scenario, with unlimited resources, really a respiratory panel of, you know, many of the different viruses that cause respiratory illness,” he said. “I think that would be very effective. That would be ideal because all of these are contact dependent, right.”

He said being informed as to what you’re infected with is the best way to minimize contact with others and slow the spread.

But there is an argument against at-home tests.

Some health officials said you lose the ability to track case numbers or follow how a virus is evolving when people don’t test at a doctor’s office.

Sanders believes it’s more important for people to know what virus they have and early. He predicts at-home flu tests will be available by next flu season.