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Isn't lateral flow testing less good than PCR testing?

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.

How frequently should employees or visitors be tested?

We recommend that individuals are tested as regularly as possible to keep workplaces, venues and communities safe.

It is important to remember that individuals can still go on to be exposed to the virus following a negative test result. Additionally, a high proportion of infectious people show no symptoms at all, and so regular testing is key to breaking the chain of transmission.

Depending on the scenario, we would recommend that testing is performed every 2-3 days, or daily, depending on the scenario.

What is the limit of detection of the KnowNowᵀᴹ Test?

The Limit of Detection (LoD) is the smallest amount of virus in a sample that a given device can consistently detect.

The Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine carried out an analytical study of the KnowNowᵀᴹ test, which determined that the LoD is 500 plaque-forming units per millilitre (PFU/ml). Based on accepted models of viral load in disease progression, this very low LoD suggests that the KnowNow test 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.

In the absence of a single study that compares the LoD of KnowNowᵀᴹ to that of other tests, it is not possible to do a like-for-like comparison of the LoDs of different lateral flow tests determined by different studies. This is because there wouldn't be parity across cell cultures and strains of the virus used in the different studies. Additionally, it's important to consider that what the KnowNowᵀᴹ test detects is fundamentally different from other tests. KnowNowᵀᴹ is a true infectivity test which looks exclusively for the spike protein only present on active SARS-CoV-2 viruses. Whereas other lateral flow tests detect the nucleocapsid protein encapsulated in the centre of the virus, which can be present whether the virus is active or not.

The PFU/ml measure, as used in the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine KnowNowᵀᴹ analytical study, is a measure of only the number of virus particles capable of forming plaques in a given sample - viral particles that are defective or which fail to infect their target cell will not produce a plaque and so are not counted by this measure. No inference can be made about the relationship of PFU to the overall number of viral particles in the sample, since this will differ from sample to sample.

Since the KnowNow test specifically detects infectious viral particles only, an LoD measured in PFU/ml is an informative and appropriate measure. However, for other lateral flow tests which indiscriminately detect active and inactive viral particles, an LoD referencing PFU/ml is not particularly informative or comparable to the KnowNowᵀᴹ LoD. For example, the sample used to determine LoD may have had a very low PFU/ml, but many inactive viral particles which were detected by the test. Ultimately, other lateral flow tests are not true tests for COVID infectivity, they do not detect only infectious virus like the KnowNowᵀᴹ test does.

If you'd like to read more about this subject, we recommend reading 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 LoD values for tests should be benchmarked against a universal standard and readily available in the public domain to enable like-for-like comparison of SARS-CoV-2 detection methods.

Is it painful to take the KnowNowᵀᴹ Test?

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.

How big is a KnowNowᵀᴹ Test kit?

One box contains 25 tests, and measures 20cm (L) x 21cm (W) x 8cm (H).

How have you validated the accuracy of your tests?

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.

Who makes the KnowNow Test?

The KnowNowᵀᴹ Test has been invented, developed and manufactured in the UK by Senseutics Limited, trading as Vatic.

What's the long term vision for Vatic beyond COVID-19?

We’re focused on developing our predictive health technology and tests so that we can make medicine more proactive and help to predict illness before it becomes acute or infectious. We want to empower people to feel in charge of their own health and wellbeing by making testing more readily accessible and available, allowing for earlier prediction and prevention of acute illnesses.

I've already activated my sample pack

If you have already activated your sample pack please go to the activation link that we emailed to you. Alternatively, if you fill in your email again we will re-send the activation link to you.

How does KnowNowᵀᴹ compare to other COVID-19 lateral flow antigen tests?

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.

Can anyone order KnowNowᵀᴹ Tests?

At the moment, KnowNowᵀᴹ Tests are for professional use only, meaning that they need to be administered by a trained healthcare professional. This means that we can take orders from organisations that have in-house or outsourced healthcare professionals who can perform the tests, or testing service providers.

However, since the KnowNowᵀᴹ Test needs just a saliva sample, it is much easier to administer effectively than other similar tests, and still return highly sensitive results. So we are investigating whether specially-trained, competent individuals could be approved to administer KnowNow tests as well.

We are also in the process of trialling and seeking approval for a variation of the KnowNow test which could be administered by individuals themselves.

Had COVID - 19 symptoms in the last 2 days? Apply here to help us make testing accessible to all.