Belgian Researchers Caution Against Relying On COVID Antigen Testing Over The Holidays

  • Belgian researchers warned against relying too much on COVID-19 quick antigen testing before the holidays, claiming that infected people’s breath had large quantities of virus in the first two days after infection when many antigen tests were negative.

According to the parties engaged, many families may aim to use antigen testing to screen for illness before family reunions. In the interests of public health, they claimed they were sharing their findings ahead of a peer-reviewed publication.

“A negative rapid antigen test shortly before a meeting does not guarantee that it would protect others,” said Emmanuel Andre, a microelectronics think tank.

Exhaled particles are known to have a role in viral transmission, but detecting significant amounts of the virus at the onset of infection was unexpected. According to Andre, a “first signal” that the virus may be transmitted very early in an illness.

“When the danger of contracting the illness is great, such as within the first seven days after a high-risk interaction,” he noted, “a negative antigen test should not substitute self-isolation.” Researchers evaluated 58 patients who had been in close contact with an infected person over two weeks using a variety of tests.

11 of the 58 went on to develop COVID-19. On the other hand, Antigen testing failed to identify their infection half of the time over the first two days. The illness was consistently identified using PCR testing collected from nasal swabs.

New research from KU Leuven suggests a high viral load in exhaled air during the first two days after SARS-CoV-2 infection:

Self-tests (quick antigen testing with shallow, nasal swabs) are now routinely utilized as a strategy in the battle against SARS-CoV-2 transmission. They are suggested for anyone experiencing corona symptoms or attending a conference.

That idea was based on results from PCR testing performed on deep nasal swabs, which revealed a reduced viral load at an early stage of illness and hence a lesser chance of infecting others. A quick test is still preferable to no trial, but a negative result might offer the impression of safety.

This concept has been debunked by a clinical investigation conducted by imec, KU Leuven, and UZ Leuven. The findings were released as a preprint on December 20, 2021, and while they have not yet been peer-reviewed, the researchers are eager to share their results for the sake of public health.

Belgian Researchers Caution Against Relying On COVID Antigen Testing Over The Holidays
Belgian Researchers Caution Against Relying On COVID Antigen Testing Over The Holidays

A novel breath test is being used in a clinical trial:

The researchers employed an imec-developed novel ‘breathalyzer’ breath test for their investigation. A PCR test is done on a breath sample rather than a sample acquired following a deep nasal swab in this procedure. This is the first time the viral load in exhaled air particles has been examined in a long-term investigation.

The study included 58 high-risk contacts as participants. One hundred and eleven of them became infected. The researchers then compared the viral load in the various types of samples. Half of the individuals’ fast antigen testing resulted in false negatives within the first two days following infection.

However, whereas standard PCR testing on nose swabs revealed a viral load that began low and steadily increased over the first two days, PCR studies on breath samples revealed a viral load that reached a maximum sooner and then progressively reduced. The elevated viral load in exhaled breath is an early sign that the virus can quickly spread after infection.

A quick test is insufficient to ensure a safe meeting:

“We previously knew that aerosols play a crucial role in the propagation of the virus, especially in poorly ventilated settings where many people meet,” says Professor Emmanuel André, a clinical microbiologist at KU Leuven/UZ Leuven and the study’s primary investigator. We’ve also observed that the viral load in exhaled air is already significant in the early stages of illness when 50% of the antigen tests are erroneous.” Although a quick test is preferable to a no test, a negative result is conceivable.

According to a new study, microplastics may be associated with inflammatory bowel disease:

According to research, people with inflammatory bowel illness had 50 percent more microplastics in their feces. Microplastics have been found to induce intestinal inflammation and other gastrointestinal issues in experimental animals, but this is the first study to examine the consequences on people. The researchers discovered 42 microplastic fragments per gram in dried samples from IBD patients and 28 pieces in healthy subjects.

Microplastic concentrations were also greater in patients with more severe IBD, implying a link between the two. It’s possible, for example, that IBD leads patients to retain more microplastics in their stomachs.

From the pinnacle of Mount Everest to the deepest waters, microplastic contamination has poisoned the whole world. The microscopic particles were already known to be consumed through food and water, as well as inhaled. Microplastics are known to affect animals, but less is known about their influence on human health, despite research released earlier this month finding that they injure human cells in the lab.

Samples from 50 healthy persons and 52 people with IBD who were otherwise healthy were analyzed in the study published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology. The participants came from around China and filled out a questionnaire on their eating and drinking habits during the previous year.

In addition to IBD, the researchers discovered that persons who drank bottled water or ate fast food had roughly double the number of microplastics in their feces. The microplastics contained a total of 15 distinct forms of plastic. PET, which is used in water bottles and food containers, and polyamide, also used in food packaging, were the most prevalent.

When it took changes in approach into consideration, the level of microplastics in the feces was similar to those seen in a few prior investigations. In one research, babies had more microplastics in their feces than adults. This might result from newborns chewing on plastic things or using milk bottles, which have been shown to shed millions of microplastics.

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