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Omicron: Biologist Urges Brits To Alter How They Do Lateral Flow Tests

by : Hannah Smith on : 29 Dec 2021 13:53
Omicron: Biologist Urges Brits To Alter How They Do Lateral Flow TestsAlamy

We’ve all grown used to sticking a cotton swab so far up your nose it feels like it’s in your brain, but according to one biologist many of us may be missing a crucial step when it comes to our lateral flow tests.

While many of the at-home kits used to test for Covid-19 suggest users take only a nasal swab, UCL Cell Biologist Jennifer Rohn has urged people displaying symptoms associated with the Omicron variant to swab the back of their throat as well.

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‘Well, there it is. Today, with the “wrong” (i.e. cold) symptoms and after a string of negative LFTs, I finally took Twitter advice and swabbed my throat as well as my nose (no mean feat with that diddly stick),’ she tweeted, showing her positive test. ‘If you think you might have covid, consider adding the throat sample.’

Taking a throat sample involves swabbing your tonsils with the same cotton swab used to take a sample from your nose, and, according to some experts, may help lateral flow tests detect whether someone is infected with Covid-19 earlier than through a purely nasal swab. Previous testing kits provided by the NHS advised users to take combined throat and nasal samples, however the current FlowFlex rapid tests advise only a nasal swab.

Harvard epidemiology professor Dr Michael Mina echoed that throat samples may be particularly crucial when it comes to detecting the Omicron variant, which is thought to have a shorter incubation period than previous Covid-19 variants.

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‘Symptoms are starting very early with omicron,’ he tweeted. ‘This means that there is a chance the virus isn’t yet growing in the nose when you first test [as the] virus may start further down. Throat swab + nasal may improve chances a swab picks up virus.’

The advice comes as it’s reported that at-home deliveries for lateral flow and PCR tests are currently unavailable in most regions of the UK. In a statement, the UK Health Security Agency said ‘during periods of exceptional demand there may be temporary pauses in ordering or receiving tests, to ensure we manage distribution across the system’, but advised that delivery slots were being made available on a rolling basis, BBC News reports.

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Hannah Smith

Hannah is a London-based journalist covering news and features for UNILAD. She's especially interested in social and political activism.

Topics: Health, COVID-19, Now, Omicron, UK

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Jenny Rohn/Twitter
  1. Jenny Rohn/Twitter

    @JennyRohn