Things are not going so
well as far as COVID-19 is concerned. We don’t have a vaccine yet. Millions of
people have lost their lives. And now the tests are also questionable.
Elon Musk opened up
about his experience with COVID-19 tests, also known as, rapid antigen tests.
He revealed that he took four tests out of which, two came out negative and two
were positive. He then said that he took two PCR tests from separate labs and
is now waiting for the results.
Readers must know that
Elon Musk has always been dismissive about the pandemic – and recently tweeted
that something extremely bogus is going on.
But we must also
consider that a lot of times even the most normal medical tests, like blood
tests, come out wrong. Hence, you can never call the results 100% accurate.
However, all is not
lost. Musk’s tweets are not entirely useless – he has raised an important topic
and we must converse and find out what antigens and PCR tests are. Are these
tests accurate all the time? Who is eligible to take them and what’s the
We’ve done all the research for you and will explain the medical
knowledge in English language to you.
Let’s start our query
with rapid antigen tests. Obviously, the first question that pops in your mind
is how do they work? Rapid antigen tests need a nasal sample which is to be
collected at home by a healthcare provider. These medical professionals work on
the sample and find a specific protein that is found on the surface of the
Coronavirus whenever someone gets infected by it.
Normally, these tests
should cost you around $250 to $100, and you may even get the results delivered
to your home in a matter of few minutes, they’re not as reliable as the
polymerase chain reaction – PCR tests.
The next question is
about accuracy: the sensitivity or accuracy rate lies somewhere between
84%-98%. Furthermore, Food and Drug Administration claims that positive results
from antigen tests have a high quotient of accuracy, but they also have a
bigger change of false negatives. Due to
this reason, doctors recommend that people get both tests done simultaneously
as that reduces chances of error. You can get the PCR test results in two days
and that confirms the molecular level to show whether or not someone has
Now let’s get back to
Musk for a minute – he says that he took the rapid antigen test from BD which
is a global medical company Becton, Dickson and Company. Although Musk’s results of four tests didn’t
match, the company confirms that its tests have achieved 84% sensitivity so
far, which is a promising number. Musk has said that he followed it up with a
It is believed that
rapid antigen tests work best in people who’ve tested in the early stages of
the virus. These results help in screening congregate settings, like nursing homes
and shared housing. However, there is a problem – with the increase in antigen
level, there will be a drop in the test’s ability to detect the virus. Thus, a
negative test result doesn’t factor out the COVID-19 infection.
Source: Los Angeles Times
When you talk about PCR
tests, they are considered to be the gold standard for clinical diagnosis. A
healthcare provider basically sticks a long swab up the nostril to collect a
fluid sample from the top of your throat right behind your nose. The tests are
designed to search for those genetic components that are responsible for
COVID-19. Normally, tests are free if you have health insurance but is if the
cost is coming out of your pocket, you’ll have to pay somewhere between $60 to
The tests have a fairly
stronger sensitivity rate – 95%. The chances of false positive results are
minimum to rare because the genetic material that causes the virus can’t be
confused with any other genetic material.
Let’s get back to Elon
Musk, when the pandemic started, Musk had a skeptical outlook and he predicted
that there would be very few or none at all cases in the United States by
April. We’re now in November and we know how terrible the situation is because
the numbers keep rolling.
Now, Elon Musk has most
likely contracted the Coronavirus. It’s kind of ironic.
The early assessment of
experts who’ve studied the rapid antigen tests suggests a protein lies on the
surface of SARS-CoV-2, which demands more caution as well as research. This
could likely be the issue with Musk’s test results. This controversy began Friday night when Musk
revealed that he experienced COVID-19 symptoms after returning from Berlin last
His tweets hint that
this could cause problem in the future and be responsible for the surge in
cases – something we’ve been noticing since September. People are more prone to
using rapid tests as they’re cheaper and quicker as they don’t have to be sent
to laboratory. But since the tests are less accurate, mote people could be
diagnosed positively rather than authentically.
Now various scenarios
can happen. If Musk is at the start or end of the infection period, a scenario
similar to what happened with Trump and associates can be observed.
The case of false
positives is concerning according to Pekosz. “That would be the scenario of most concern. One would be of concern. To
have two is very concerning.”
are many factors that could lead to a discordant result, including a low viral
load. As we clearly state in our instructions for use, negative results should
be considered in the context of a patient’s specific situation and confirmed
with a molecular PCR assay if necessary for patient management.”
Another theory making
rounds is explained below by Michael Mina who is an epidemiologist from Harvard
and a strong advocator of antigen tests.
he get two positives and then ‘use up’ the virus in his nose but continue
swabbing? Point is, he didn’t give enough information to know if the test
results are real or how to interpret it.”
Thus, it’s essential
that FDA provides proper ratings and a procedure to verify proper usage.