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As of November 4, 2020, the United States had performed almost 151 million tests for COVID-19, the second highest number of any country worldwide. Russia has conducted around 62.4 million tests.
High demand leads to testing problems
The COVID-19 pandemic is putting health systems around the world under severe strain. There is a huge demand for test kits, but production capacity is being stretched thin. In the United States, faulty diagnostic kits produced by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention meant the early spread of the disease went undetected for weeks. Elsewhere, concerns have been raised regarding the accuracy of some rapid diagnostic tests (RDT). In April 2020, officials in India canceled a large order of test kits due to a low accuracy rate.
What are rapid diagnostic tests?
COVID-19 vaccines and treatments are undergoing clinical trials, but it could take years before they are approved for public use. Until then, widespread testing is helping to track the spread of the disease. RDTs are a point-of-care test, which can deliver results in around 30 minutes – more traditional diagnostic tests conducted in laboratory settings are more time consuming but provide greater reliability. One type of RDT detects the presence of antibodies in a patient’s blood sample. Immune system cells produce antibodies to fight pathogens, and the detection of them may mean the patient has developed some natural immunity to the virus.
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