COVID-19 Alerts: Buyers Warned To Beware Of Buying COVID-19 Home Testing Kits Online Via Social Media Sites And Dodgy Websites
: According to a new UK study by Universities of Warwick and Birmingham, home-testing kits sold online in the UK, US and elsewhere in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis were provided with incomplete and in most cases, misleading information on how accurate they were.
Worst till there were reports from other regulatory bodies, medical institutions and consumer boards that some of these test kits were either ‘faulty or even fake.
Almost 80 percent of these faulty or fake test kits originate from China while others are from Pakistan, Nigeria, Philippines and Cambodia.
Most of these home test kits were advertised on facebook, craiglist and twitter and also on various dodgy websites.
COVID-19 testing has been regarded as critical to managing the pandemic, the two main tests being molecular virus tests to detect current infection and antibodies tests to detect previous infection.
Besides national testing programs, multiple online sites and social media platforms were found to selling both types of test in kit form for personal home use. These tests have subsequently been banned in the UK by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) and also banned by other regulatory agencies in other countries.
This UK study, which is the first research into the accuracy of the information provided by websites selling tests for the virus, analyzed 27 websites in the UK and US which were selling tests in May 2020.
The study findings were published on a preprint server. https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.08.18.20177360v1
The study team checked the online information provided with each of the 41 tests (39 in the UK and 2 in the US) and analyzed them for completeness, accuracy, and how informative the information was.
Interestingly, of the 41 tests, only nine provided the name of the manufacturer of the test while only ten provided information on when to use the test.
Data or information on accuracy was provided with 12 of the tests and just under half failed to provide information on how to interpret the results. Sensitivity and specificity information ranging from 97.5% to 100% for molecular tests and 100% for antibodies was provided for 27 of the 41 tests. However, researchers were only able to link these figures to manufacturer’s documents or publications for four of the tests.
Alarmingly, for molecular virus tests, only 9 of the 23 recommended that users who tested positive should self-isolate while only 12 out of the 18 antibodies tests being sold explained that a positive result does not necessarily infer immunity from future infection.
The study team also found misleading information about regulatory approval with websites claiming endorsements from Public Health England, the NHS or the UK or other European governments. This is despite the fact that currently, no COVID-19 antibody tests have regulatory approval for home sampling or home testing.
Such actions are actually tantamounting to public fraud and endangering lives.
ian Taylor-Phillips, a Professor from the Warwick Medical School at the University of Warwick and lead author said, “It is essential that individuals buying tests for COVID-19 are given complete and correct information. Our study shows this simply isn’t happening at the moment. This could put individuals at risk of becoming infected or infecting others.”
Dr Jon Deeks, also a Professor from the University of Birmingham’s Institute of Applied Health Research and co-author added, “Our analysis has found that many of these third party websites omitted trustworthy guidance on the timing of tests, the interpretation of results and the implications of results. It is crucial that all test users are given adequate and appropriate information to help them make safe and informed choices and best practice guidance should be developed to ensure the safety of these users. The role of the regulator in enforcing complete and accurate information should also be reviewed.”
As far as possible, it is recommended to get tested at a hospital, clinic or any venue arranged by health authorities. Many hospitals and clinics also provide home testing kits with delivery and pickup service of test kits and test samples.
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