According to Birx, that breakthrough is antigen testing. Often used to check for the flu and strep, antigen tests look for pieces of a virus — often the proteins that cover its surface.
That differs from most coronavirus tests, which look for the virus’ genetic material and require a number of chemicals to operate, many of which are in short supply. The tests can also take hours to run.
“There will never be the ability on a nucleic acid test to do 300 million tests a day or to test everybody before they go to work or to school,” Birx said earlier this month. “But there might be with the antigen test.”
With a potential market of hundreds of millions of tests a day, why doesn’t the US already have antigen tests?
For starters, they’re not easy to make, and validating their accuracy can be time-consuming and expensive. There also hasn’t been a big market for them before now.
The first tests for the coronavirus looked for specific genetic sequences, which were identified within weeks. Once those sequences were selected, tests could be made quickly — barring manufacturing issues and supply chain shortages.
But antigen tests are tailored to the 3D structure of the targeted virus, which…
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