Lateral flow tests are being examined by researchers amid Omicron detection concerns

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Lateral flow tests are being examined by researchers amid Omicron detection concerns
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  • Karl Lauterbach
    German politician and Federal Minister of Health

Researchers are examining the reliability of lateral flow tests at detecting Omicron amid concerns over their accuracy, the German government said.

Health Minister Karl Lauterbach said on Sunday the Paul Ehrlich Institute, a health oversight body, is reviewing hundreds of rapid antigen tests on the market to create a list of those that work with Omicron.

Lateral flow tests – sometimes called ‘swab’ or ‘antigen’ tests – are rapid turnaround virus tests that can check to see if you are infected with the virus.

The swab sample is taken from your nose or throat with results usually generated in under half an hour.

However, there are concerns that lateral flow tests developed before the arrival of Omicron aren’t accurate enough to detect the new variant as it contains a large number of mutations.

They are less accurate than PCR tests but can be purchased over the counter and do not require a lab technician to carry them out.

“We do not know exactly how well these tests work for Omicron,” Lauterbach said on public broadcasting channel ARD, adding the results of the assessment would become available within weeks.

Lauterbach added: “The alternative not to test at all...would be far too dangerous.”

Omicron now accounts for 44 per cent of coronavirus infections in Germany, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious disease said.

On Sunday, RKI registered 36,552 newly reported coronavirus infections within 24 hours. This is three times the number a week earlier.

The comments come as British biotech firm Avacta withdrew its rapid antigen test from the market over concerns that the test isn’t reliable enough to detect cases of the Omicron variant.

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