@La Presse/ Peter Green

Coronavirus risk calculations get harder as a study suggests rapid tests may be less effective at detecting omicron

Fauci draws a line on New Year’s Eve parties — no big crowd, and moderate the “hugging and kissing”

As the coronavirus spawns a record-breaking wave of infections, new research suggests that rapid tests widely used to identify potential covid-19 cases might be less effective at identifying illness caused by the swiftly spreading omicron variant, the Washington Post reports.

The finding is the latest complication for anyone trying to strike a common-sense balance between being vigilant and returning to normalcy as the country approaches the third year of the pandemic.

The research, issued Tuesday by the Food and Drug Administration and produced by the National Institutes of Health, said the rapid antigen tests — which have been in high demand and often hard to find this holiday season — “do detect the omicron variant but may have reduced sensitivity.”

Although rapid tests showed reduced sensitivity to omicron compared with earlier variants in a lab study, the real-world implications are not clear, said Bruce J. Tromberg, director of NIH’s National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering and lead of RADx Tech, the joint FDA and NIH effort to speed up development of diagnostics.

“The diminished sensitivity from the [lab experiments] pales in comparison” with the increased transmissibility of omicron, Tromberg said. “Even with reduced performance, it will still pick up infections and it will help individuals get treatment sooner.”

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