Interview: At-home COVID-19 testing kit approved for emergency use


SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) — Swab, stir, detect: Those are the three simple steps of the new home coronavirus test kit approved for emergency use by the Food and Drug Administration last week.

The molecular technology now being used at Lucira was first developed by grad students from UC Berkeley to detect chlamydia and gonorrhea.

Then it was adapted over five years as a flu test and was about to be released for that purpose earlier this year when COVID-19 struck the globe.

This single-use, molecular-based kit is 50 to 60 times more effective than the antigen test in use today and will show a positive result in about 11 minutes. A negative result will take about 30 minutes.

This test also does not feature the long swab jabbed up the nostril, which is part of the PCR coronavirus test that’s common now, said Dr. John Chou, Medical Director of Diagnostics at Sutter Health.

The home test does include a swab, which you “go in… and swab it five times in each nostril,” he explained, demonstrating the kit for FOX40.

For now, the kit will be available by prescription only at places like Sutter Health and Florida’s Cleveland Clinic while Lucira ramps up its manufacturing capabilities.

“Lucira is working with one of the major pharmacy distribution companies and once that will happen, it should make it fairly straightforward, and I believe this will happen somewhere later on this year,” Chou said.

The hope is that a website, complete with an online medical consultation and an overnight delivery feature, will happen by the second quarter of 2021. Eventually, the kit may be available for sale at the drug store for about $50.

“You really do need to talk to your physicians about these [kits],” Chou said. “If you do have your own physicians who know you best and know about your healthcare or background, they can make sure what they’re taking care of is not just this COVID, that your symptoms are not necessarily caused by something else that’s also pressing.”

Chou said the convenience and accessibility, though, may be helpful to many.

“In terms of getting a test in the traditional sense, you do have to schedule it and you do have to drive to a site and then get that test done,” he said. “With a test like this where you can complete it at home, it can be on your schedule.”

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