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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.

How long will it take a qualified clinician to administer each test?

From our own studies with partners, we estimate that a clinical professional can administer one test every 3.5 to 4 minutes. This assumes that they collect saliva samples from individuals, set the KnowNowᵀᴹ Test devices aside to develop for 15 minutes, and collect samples from further individuals before reading the results from earlier tests.

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.

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.

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.

How is a KnowNowᵀᴹ Test administered?

There are just 4 simple steps to the KnowNowᵀᴹ Test.

  1. Swab the mouth: The KnowNowᵀᴹ Test requires just a saliva sample to be taken easily and comfortably from the mouth. We know how uncomfortable and painful other lateral flow antigen tests or polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests can be, with swabs going high into nostrils and all the way back to tonsils. It was really important to us that people would feel happy to take a KnowNow test on a regular basis.
  2. Shake the tube: The saliva swab is placed into a buffer solution in a small tube, and shaken up to mix it well.
  3. Squeeze on panel: A few drops of the mixed solution is squeezed onto the KnowNowᵀᴹ Test device.
  4. Know in 15 minutes: It takes just 15 minutes for the positive or negative result to appear in the test result window on the KnowNowᵀᴹ Test device. No need to wait 24-48 hours for results, as you would with a PCR test.

How should used KnowNowᵀᴹ Tests be disposed of?

Used tests, swabs and buffer dropper tubes should be disposed of as potentially hazardous clinical waste.

Why does the KnowNowᵀᴹ test use a saliva sample?

We chose to design our unique KnowNowᵀᴹ test for COVID-19 infectiousness to work with a simple saliva sample, so that it would be comfortable and easy to administer, and to ensure that anyone would be happy to take a test every day if required. We believe that patient comfort and happiness leads to increased participation in routine testing, and ultimately increases the probability that COVID positive patients can be detected before they've had a chance to infect others.

The focus of our first clinical study was to assess the feasibility of using saliva sampling, to refine our saliva collection method, and also to assess the overall usability of the KnowNow test. This was a UK Government-supported National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) study carried out across ten UK hospitals with 100 patients participating. Through this study we determined that saliva sampling was both effective and user-friendly, and identified a specific swab for sampling. We chose not to opt for a spit collection method for our saliva sample, as providing a spit sample can be challenging for some patients, particularly the elderly or those suffering with COVID-19 symptoms.

For other COVID-19 tests, throat and nasopharyngeal swabbing is one of the most common types of sample collection. However, a number of studies have explored various issues with these types of sample collection, including:

  • The sample collection method requires a swab to be inserted into the patient's throat and/or far into their nostril and rotated, causing discomfort to patients due to the procedure’s invasiveness, and even inducing bleeding in their tonsils and posterior pharynx. (1)
  • The discomfort or even pain of the sample collection method has a detrimental impact on compliance for serial testing, as patients are unwilling to subject themselves to the test on a regular basis. (2)
  • Nasopharyngeal sample collection presents a considerable risk to healthcare workers, because it can induce patients to sneeze or cough, expelling virus particles. (2)
  • There are several situations where nasopharyngeal swabs would cause particular harm, such as in patients with coagulopathy, those undergoing anticoagulant therapy, or those with significant nasal septum deviation. (3)
  • These tests are not always successful at the first attempt, even though performed by trained healthcare workers, and shortages of swabs and protective equipment are frequently reported. (3)
  • They show relatively poor sensitivity for SARS-CoV-2 detection in early infection and are inconsistent during serial testing. (2)

Some tests have been designed to work with anterior nasal swabs, as a somewhat less invasive alternative to nasopharyngeal swabs. However, there is some evidence to suggest that nasal swab testing produces less sensitive results and may miss patients with lower viral loads (4).

References:

(1) Exploring salivary diagnostics in COVID-19: a scoping review and research suggestions

(2) Saliva is more sensitive for SARS-CoV-2 detection in COVID-19 patients than nasopharyngeal swabs

(3) Saliva as a Candidate for COVID-19 Diagnostic Testing: A Meta-Analysis

(4) Nasal-Swab Testing Misses Patients with Low SARS-CoV-2 Viral Loads

We have a vaccine now, do we need testing anymore?

Although vaccine rollout is progressing extremely quickly in the UK, the government expects that it will be the end of July 2021 before every adult in the UK has been offered their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. Second doses should be received around 12 weeks after the first, and so it is likely to be the end of October 2021 before every adult has received both doses.

In the meantime, whilst we await full vaccine rollout, regular rapid antigen testing offers a way to enable the re-opening of society.

Beyond this, it is also important to consider that no vaccine is 100% effective even after 2 doses, that not everyone will accept or be able to have the vaccine, and that there is uncertainty as to whether the vaccines will work effectively against current or future mutations of the virus. We should also consider the fact that the UK is very much ahead of other countries around the world in progressing its vaccine rollout, and that it will still be some time before the vast majority of people globally will be vaccinated.

With these factors in mind, regular testing is likely to play a role in keeping societies safe and open for some time to come.

How much space do I need to store the tests?

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

The space required depends on how many tests you require at any given time. However, as the KnowNowᵀᴹ Tests can be stored at any temperature between 2 and 30 degrees, special storage facilities should not be required in the UK, unless there is unusually hot weather.

Is there a limit to how frequently I can take your tests?

No, there's no limit at all. KnowNow is specifically designed for frequent testing in order to offer the best chance of identifying infectious individuals as early as possible.

We recommend that individuals are tested as regularly as possible to keep workplaces and communities safe. Depending on the scenario, we would recommend that testing is performed every 2-3 days, or even daily, depending on the scenario.

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