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WHO interim guidance: Use of SARS-CoV-2 antigen-detection rapid diagnostic tests for COVID-19 self-testing 

In March 2022, the World Health Organization published its first guide to self-testing for COVID-19 using rapid antigen tests.

“The goal is to contribute to the effective management of COVID-19 as a public health problem,” their guidelines read.

The document emphasizes  that this option must be offered in addition to professionally administered testing.

WHO further explains that there is evidence showing users can use self-tests in a reliable and accurate manner, and that it is both acceptable and feasible to use the tests.

An explanation of when self-testing will be appropriate must be provided, as must complete instructions tailored for country specific contexts.

Clear messaging is also needed on what to do with the results of a test and what individual responsibilities will be.

Other recommendations include:

  • COVID-19 self-test kits should meet the existing World Health Organization (WHO) standards.
  • Self-tests should be accepted for screening and diagnostic purposes.
  • If positive, a self-test should, if appropriate in a country-specific context, be sufficient to link a positive-tested patient with clinical care and therapeutics. 
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SARS-CoV-2 antigen-detecting rapid diagnostic tests: An implementation guide

This guide, produced by FIND and the World Health Organization, provides information on implementing diagnostic programs using rapid antigen tests. 

It shows how rapid antigen testing can be implemented to support individual case management, contact tracing, surveillance and outbreak investigations.

The guide stresses the use of strict testing protocols and clear communication, and the need to protect healthcare workers against transmission. 

It outlines the different types of available testing  and where rapid antigen testing fits in. Rapid antigen tests are used to find a protein the body produces in response to an infection with the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

It produces fast results and is easy to use in low-resource settings where laboratories are unavailable. 

The guide provides step-by-step instructions on the use of these tests and how best to communicate and follow up on patients after a test result is obtained. 

It also explains the best practice of testing within 5 to 7 days of the onset of symptoms. 

While rapid tests are easy to use in most instances, the guide lists where they should not be used. 

This includes testing patients without symptoms unless they are a close contact of a confirmed case; where there are no appropriate infection control measures in place; where test results will not influence the treatment of the patients and for screening at points of entry.

The use of rapid antigen tests is also not advised  prior to elective surgery or blood donation.