BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- A new study by Johns Hopkins Medicine suggests rapid antigen testing is comparable in accuracy to PCR testing in children.
Over a 7-month study in 2021, 1054 patients under the age of 17 took both a PCR test and a rapid antigen test at the Baltimore Convention Center Field Hospital. According to researchers, among the cases found using a PCR test, 92.7% of those were also detected by the rapid antigen test.
The results of the study for both symptomatic and asymptomatic children should give parents and school administrators more trust in rapid tests, according to clinical assistant with BCCFH, Mary Jane Vaeth.
The Chief Medical Officer at BCCFH, Zishan Siddiqui, also adds that this research could play an important role in allowing students to limit their absences from school while in quarantine or waiting for their PCR test results to come back.
"The way I see the value of this study, especially in these days where COVID is so prevalent, there are a number of layers of safety that we have. We have masking, we have social distancing, we have good ventilation, we have hand washing... this gives you another tool," explained Siddiqui.
The study was conducted when the Delta variant was predominant, but researchers said rapid tests could be indispensable depending on a study conducted with the now-dominant omicron variant.
"If further studies with the extremely transmissible omicron variant show very high viral load and rapid antigen accuracy, these tests could become one of most valuable tools used to fight current and future COVID-19 variants," researchers said in the study.
Researchers add that a negative rapid test in children should not take the place of other COVID-19 precautions, including social distancing and masking.
The findings are significant, according to Siddiqui, because the rapid test offers advantages over the PCR test. This includes savings in time and money.
There's also the ease of the distribution and application of rapid antigen tests, which could help overcome COVID-19 testing disparities for children in medically underserved communities.
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