The BD Veritor At-Home COVID Test: Everything You Should Know, According to Infectious Disease Experts

Where to buy it, how to take it, and more.

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The BD Veritor At-Home COVID Test: Everything You Should Know, According to Infectious Disease Experts , Woman holding smart phone and self-testing swab for Coronavirus/COVID-19.
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The influx of information about coronavirus testing can be overwhelming: "Take this test… Wait, no, take that test… But only when you have symptoms… Or if you don't have symptoms… Or just as a precaution… Or only if you've been exposed."

Everyone might have a little something different to say on the matter, but our aim is to give you clarity on when, how, and what COVID tests you should be taking, no matter your situation. Health talked to an infectious disease expert as well as a doctor who worked on the production of the BD Veritor at-home COVID test to give you a clear picture of at-home rapid testing and the accuracy of these tests.

To buy: BD Veritor at-home COVID test, $34; amazon.com

When to use an antigen test vs. a PCR test

So, you need to take a COVID test. The "why" will help you determine what kind you should use. Whether precautionary or due to exposure, COVID testing is a helpful way to avoid spreading the virus to others, per the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). The two main types of coronavirus tests are PCR and antigen tests.

"PCR test[s] look for the genetic material of the virus in a way that is very sensitive and can detect even small traces. It just takes time to get results, usually a few days," Adam Ratner, MD, director of pediatric infectious diseases at NYU Langone Health Hassenfeld Children's Hospital, told Health. "Antigen tests do the same, but differently—they look for a protein that is made by the virus and can detect it in about 15-30 minutes. The downside is that they're less sensitive, so it's possible to have small amounts of the virus that might get missed."

Dr. Ratner explained that if you have no symptoms, a negative result on a rapid antigen test is sufficient because even if there are small amounts of untraceable coronavirus, it won't be enough to spread to anyone else. If you have symptoms (like a cold, scratchy throat, loss of taste or smell, fever, or flu-like symptoms) you should take a rapid antigen test as a first measure. If the test is positive, immediately isolate (for at least five days), and when possible, get a PCR test to confirm. If the test is negative, you should still get a PCR test to confirm because symptoms indicate there might still be small traces of the virus that could spread through coughing, sneezing, etc. If you think you've been exposed to someone with COVID, you should also get tested.

It should be noted that many at-home COVID tests have been authorized by the FDA under the Emergency Use Authorization, but not all have been FDA-approved or cleared. The antigen tests are specifically authorized to detect proteins from SARS-CoV-2 (COVID), but not for any other viruses or pathogens.

BD Veritor At-Home Covid-19 Test
Madison Yauger

How to take the at-home BD Veritor COVID test

I received a sample of the BD Veritor at-home COVID test, and took it as a precautionary measure after attending a large gathering on New Year's Eve. The testing kit comes with two tests that should be taken within 48 hours of each other—a practice called serial testing, which is used to more accurately confirm results.

This digital COVID test uses an app called Scanwell Health to show results, so the first steps are downloading it onto your phone and making an account. Each test comes with a scan card, a tube of testing solution (sodium azide), a cotton swab, a test stick, and the box itself, which will also be used (so don't throw it away upon opening). Because this test relies on scanning data to your phone, you'll need to make sure there's good lighting (natural light is best, but at the very least, no shadows) and that the test is on a flat surface.

Once you're in the app, take a photo of the scan card to identify your test, and then answer a few questions. There are videos in the app that will guide you through each test when you're ready to begin.

First, wash your hands and place the tube of testing solution upright with the lid off in the box's designated hole (carefully, to avoid spills). Open the swab by the base so as not to touch the swab itself, and insert it into your nose, about an inch above your nostrils. Turn the swab five times, and then repeat in the other nostril (using the same swab). Place the swab down into the testing solution, dunking it for about 15 seconds. Leave it in the solution while you do the next step.

Open your test stick and place it on the scan card, face up in the outline provided. Slowly remove the swab from the solution, using the bottle to gently squeeze any remaining liquid out of the swab back into the solution. You can then throw the swab away. Close the bottle cap and flick the end of it a couple of times to mix it, then place three drops onto the bottom of the test stick where specified (if you need a visual, follow the guide videos).

The test will process for 15 minutes, and you'll notice a pink color moving toward the top and forming a series of lines. Once the timer goes off, the app will open the camera automatically, and after you take a picture of the scan card, you'll be sent to a results page. It takes a minute to load. This page will clearly tell you your results, and, if positive, the app will send that data to your state agencies for reporting purposes so you don't have to. You should take the second test between 24 and 48 hours after the first one to confirm any results—for example, first test on Monday, second on Wednesday. Once finished, you can discard the materials in the trash (making sure to place the cap back on the testing solution first).

BD Veritor At-Home Covid-19 Test
BD Veritor

The accuracy of the BD Veritor test

"No test is perfect," said Dr. Ratner, but they can all "mitigate risk." With the BD Veritor antigen test, the test strip undergoes a chemical reaction that detects proteins of coronavirus. "The strip has antibodies embedded in it that respond to the COVID virus," Jeff Andrews, MD,, the Vice President of Medical Affairs, Integrated Diagnostic Solutions at BD Life Sciences, told Health. Note: BD Life Sciences is the company that produces the BD Veritor test.

"Our [tests] had a control line and a human line to account for invalid results. In order to avoid all this line reading that confuses people, we use the smartphone app to give you an answer in words, as either positive or negative," explained Dr. Andrews. "At the time we began working on this, the FDA was encouraging the use of technology and having the phones do the interpretation. And then results can be reported to the state/CDC. Our test is the only one that does that."

By including two tests in every box, BD Life Sciences encourages serial testing to ensure an accurate result. "On the first occasion, you might not have a lot of virus in your system, but the second or third day, it might detect the virus more and show up positive," said Dr. Andrews. "The antigen shows infection rate, so if it's positive, you should isolate, and if it's negative, you're less likely to be infectious to others."

Dr. Andrews stated that the BD Veritor at-home antigen test is rated 84% on sensitivity (it will detect 84/100 positive infections) and 99.5% on specificity, meaning out of 1,000 not infected people, the test might give one or two false positives.

Cost and availability of the BD Veritor test

The BD Veritor test is available on Amazon for $34. Standard shipping takes approximately one week, with options for faster delivery. Recently, the government announced that US insurers must cover eight at-home tests per month, so if you have purchased previous tests, you should speak to your insurance about reimbursements. Additionally, the government will send you four at-home rapid antigen tests for free when you fill out this USPS form. The limit is four tests per residential address, and the brand of tests being sent were unknown at the time of publishing. Orders are estimated to be shipped at the end of January.

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