Avacta suspends sales of COVID-19 antigen test to improve sensitivity of Omicron

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: An illustration of the UK government’s website for ordering coronavirus disease (COVID-19) home test kits in London, England, April 24, 2020. REUTERS/Toby Melville/Illustration

By Amna Karimi and Pushkala Aripaka

(Reuters) – Britain’s Avacta Group will stop selling its COVID-19 rapid antigen lateral flow test to replace antibodies in the device and improve its ability to detect variants of Omicron, the biotech said on Monday, sending its shares plunged nearly 27%.

The London-listed company’s test, AffiDX, can detect the Omicron variant when the virus is abundant in the sample, but tests conducted by Avacta found that AffiDX was sensitive to Omicron when the viral load was low compared to other variants low sex.

Scientists and governments are scrambling to bolster defenses against Omicron with tests, injections, treatments, and by decoding the virus’s genome to try to measure how well it spreads when the variant has the potential to become globally dominant.

“Our determination to only offer…high performance diagnostic tests led us…to decide to suspend all marketing of the AffiDX lateral flow antigen test,” said Avacta CEO Alastair Smith, urging others to also Evaluate Omicron’s products for their sensitivity.

Experts and health authorities have warned https://www.reuters.com/business/healthcare-pharmaceuticals/rapid-nose-swab-tests-covid-may-not-detect-omicron-quickly-enough-expert-says-2022- 01-07 The COVID-19 rapid antigen test (which relies on nasal swabs) may not detect Omicron fast enough because people can spread the virus in the early stages of infection before it reaches the nose.

These tests are popular at home and travel checkpoints for their quick results and cheaper price compared to other complex tests.

While Avacta didn’t say when it expected to resume sales of Omicron’s AffiDX test, it said the COVID-19 test “remains a long-term business opportunity” for the company.

Shares in the company fell 26.5% to 85.25 pence in early London trade, erasing a gain of about 11% it had recorded in 2021.

Avacta and other test makers have also had to withdraw some COVID-19 tests from the UK market after the new review system, which had not yet approved products they had previously accepted, came into effect.

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