COVID-19 test accuracy is typically determined by ‘specificity’ and ‘sensitivity’.
Specificity is about the extent to which you can eliminate false positives; sensitivity is how much virus needs to be present before a test picks it up. So there is always a need to strike a balance, when testing, between trying to pick up the virus as early as possible, versus accidentally delivering a positive test result for someone who is not actually infected.
The specificity of the KnowNowᵀᴹ Test is 100%. In more than 700 negative patient saliva samples, we haven’t had a single false positive.
What’s important when it comes to sensitivity is how much virus needs to be present in the patient sample for the test to give a positive signal. This is known as the 'Limit of Detection', and we measure this rather than clinical sensitivity as it is much more informative. Our Limit of Detection is between 50,000 and 200,000 viral copies per mL, making our test more sensitive than other rapid antigen tests available. The Abbott BinaxNow test, for example, needs 1,000,000 viral copies per mL in order to get a positive signal. The KnowNowᵀᴹ Test's very low Limit of Detection means it can detect infected people as early as day 3 to 4 of infection. This is before they become highly infectious, and a day or two earlier than most tests available (based on models of viral load in disease progression).
If you'd like to read more about this subject, we recommend this paper. It argues that the "Limit of Detection matters and directly impacts efforts to identify, control, and contain outbreaks during this pandemic" since "higher LoD are likely to miss nonnegligible fractions of infected individuals." It also makes the case that Limit of Detection values for tests using universal standard metrics should be readily available in the public domain to enable like-for-like comparison.
To date we have conducted three clinical studies. The first was a UK Government-supported National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) study across ten UK hospitals; the second was with Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, and the third is a community study that we have led ourselves. We have also carried out our own analytical assessments, as well as two Public Health England analytical assessments.
We have worked with over 280 negative patient samples and around 100 COVID-19 positive patients across our studies. We are also currently carrying out a 650+ patient clinical trial with sites in the UK, USA and Brazil to provide us with a higher volume of clinical data, and with a view to additional regulatory approvals to widen the reach of the impact we can have globally in pandemic recovery.
The KnowNowᵀᴹ test has been developed to Vatic's stringent standards of quality and safety.
It has undergone the necessary clinical trials and performance tests and has been shown to meet the specific requirements published by the UK's Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).
The KnowNow test has been CE marked for professional use in a healthcare setting and has been registered for use in the UK and the EU.
KnowNowᵀᴹ offers two key benefits over polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests.
The first benefit is that the KnowNowᵀᴹ test needs only a saliva sample, which can be taken easily and comfortably from the mouth. PCR tests usually need a nasopharyngeal, anterior nasal or tonsil sample, all of which are painful and unpleasant for the individual being tested and more challenging to collect effectively for the clinical professional administering the test. No one wants to be made to cry or gag, or make someone else cry or gag, on a regular basis!
The second benefit is that the KnowNow test uses its unique detection mechanism to determine whether an individual is actually infectious, whereas PCR tests identify whether SARS-CoV-2 viral matter is present in an individual's body, regardless of whether it is already inactive.
Although PCR tests have been seen as the "gold standard" test for the SARS-CoV-2 virus, they do have a number of drawbacks. Laboratory processing is required, meaning that there is a delay before results can be returned, and the associated costs are relatively high. Also the detection mechanism does not specifically identify whether individuals are infectious. In fact, PCR tests detect the virus long after the infectious period, and individuals can continue to test positive for a mean of 17 days after they have stopped being able to infect others (source). This means that people who are not infectious are unnecessarily quarantined as a result of a positive PCR test.
There have been questions raised around the sensitivity of rapid lateral flow antigen testing for SARS-CoV-2 as compared to PCR testing. However, these questions have been strongly challenged by the scientific community.
PCR tests identify the presence of the SARS-CoV-2 virus in the body, regardless of whether the virus is actively infectious. The PCR testing process amplifies the genetic code of the virus so that even minuscule amounts of the virus in the sample can be picked up. This makes for a powerful test, but since viral fragments can linger in the body for weeks even after the infection has cleared, infected individuals being tested using PCR will show as positive for a median period of 22–33 days in total. On the other hand, most people infected with SARS-CoV-2 are contagious only for 4–8 days.
So whilst PCR testing for SARS-CoV-2 may have been considered the "gold standard" test up until now, it will by definition show different results when compared to lateral flow tests which aim to identify individuals based on viral loads which suggest they are within their infectious window. This discrepancy between what each test is actually testing for has caused some issues where PCR testing has been used to evaluate the effectiveness of lateral flow tests, such as in the mass testing rolled out in Liverpool in November 2020.
The KnowNowᵀᴹ Test goes a step beyond other lateral flow tests with its unique, patented detection mechanism which only shows a positive result when live infectious virus is identified in the sample. As a result, PCR tests will similarly show different results to the KnowNowᵀᴹ Test in certain cases, since they will show positive results even for individuals outside of their infectious period.
For a much more comprehensive and referenced answer, you may like to read "Clarifying the evidence on SARS-CoV-2 antigen rapid tests in public health responses to COVID-19" from the Lancet.
The mechanism underpinning the KnowNowᵀᴹ test mimics the means through which the virus interacts with the surface of a human cell in order to detect it. As a result, we expect that it will continue to identify the SARS-CoV-2 virus even in the face of further potential mutation in the future, unlike tests based on antibodies.
We have modelled the difference between the Wuhan and 501Y mutations in a recombinant protein model to give us initial analytical evidence that the KnowNow test reacts to these variations of concern. And we are currently carrying out a study on live samples of these and other mutations to gather practical evidence of this.
In fact, we predict that the KnowNowᵀᴹ test may potentially become even more sensitive as the virus mutates to become more infectious. And we will continue to carry out further analyses and studies to support this prediction, and confirm that KnowNow continues to function on newer mutations as they arise.
The KnowNowᵀᴹ Test and COVID-19 antibody tests test for completely different things.
Antibody tests identify whether someone has had coronavirus in the past, whereas the KnowNowᵀᴹ Test detects whether an individual is currently infectious.
Antibody testing involves detecting the immune response in the human body to having fought off a virus. These tests look for an antibody created in the bloodstream in response to the presence of a virus in that environment. This is useful when testing the effectiveness of a vaccine, or understanding how far and wide a virus has spread. However, it is of limited usefulness to individuals, as it is only able to identify whether an individual has fought off the SARS-CoV-2 virus in the past. It cannot effectively confirm whether they are currently infected, or infectious.
No, not at all. It was really important to us when inventing this test, that it would be comfortable and easy enough that anyone would be happy to take a test every day if they needed to.
All the KnowNow test needs is a simple saliva sample from the mouth. Unlike alternative antigen tests or most PCR tests, the KnowNow test does not require the clinical professional to insert a swab very high inside the nose to collect a sample from the nasopharynx, nor does it require a tonsil swab. This is one COVID-19 test that won't make people gag or cry.
The KnowNowᵀᴹ Test is unique to other lateral flow antigen tests in 3 key areas.
The first key difference is that the KnowNow test needs only a saliva sample, which can be taken easily and comfortably from the mouth. Other lateral flow antigen tests usually need a nasopharyngeal, anterior nasal or tonsil sample, all of which are painful and unpleasant for the individual being tested and more challenging to collect effectively for the clinical professional administering the test. No one wants to be made to cry or gag, or make someone else cry or gag, on a regular basis!
The second is that the KnowNowᵀᴹ Test looks specifically for live virus which would cause the individual tested to be able to infect others. Although other lateral flow antigen tests are often said to test whether an individual is infectious, this is because they have a higher Limit of Detection and can only detect the virus when there are more viral particles present in the sample. As a result, they offer a proxy measure for infectivity, rather than directly testing whether there is live virus in the sample. The KnowNowᵀᴹ Test on the other hand is a true infectiousness test, which uses a unique patented mechanism which detects a completely different part of the virus.
Finally, the KnowNowᵀᴹ Test is also more sensitive than other rapid antigen tests available, as it is able to pick up the presence of the virus even when there is much less of it present in the sample. Our Limit of Detection is between 50,000 and 200,000 viral copies per mL, whilst the Abbott BinaxNow test, for example, needs 1,000,000 viral copies per mL in order to get a positive signal.
The KnowNowᵀᴹ test will provide a result within 17-18 minutes of an individual arriving for their test.
The process of taking the saliva sample, mixing it with the buffer solution and dropping it onto the KnowNow test device should take a clinical professional no more than 2 to 3 minutes.
It then takes just 15 minutes for the test result to develop in the KnowNow device test results window.
The test result should not be read and interpreted after 60 minutes. If it wasn't possible to read and interpret the results between 15 and 60 minutes after dropping the solution into the sample well, the test should be discarded and the process repeated with another new test and saliva sample.