May 9, 2020 - Health

FDA authorizes emergency use for first coronavirus antigen test

This is a close-up of the coronavirus under a microscope
COVID-19 under a transmission electron microscope. Photo: Image Point FR-LPN/BSIP/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

The Food and Drug Administration on Friday authorized a new coronavirus antigen test produced by Quidel Corporation, a California-based diagnostic testing company.

Why it matters: Antigen tests deliver results quickly and are relatively easy to produce, though their results are less accurate than the standard tests the U.S. has been using so far.

What's happening: “We are ramping up manufacturing to go from 200,000 tests next week [week of May 11] to more than a million a week within several weeks,” Douglas Bryant, Quidel’s CEO, told the Wall Street Journal.

  • Quidel has currently provided roughly 36,000 "test-analyzer instruments" in doctors' offices and hospitals, per the WSJ.

Between the lines: Antigen tests create a greater chance of false negatives, CNBC reports, and a negative antigen result may need to be confirmed with additional testing. But, positive antigen test results are usually highly accurate.

The big picture: The U.S. will need coronavirus tests that can detect antigens, or the part of a pathogen that triggers an immune response, as part of a testing breakthrough needed to screen a large number of people for the virus, Deborah Birx, White House coronavirus task force coordinator, said in April.

Go deeper: Coronavirus testing increasing, but still not good enough

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