Detecting Covid-19 infections from Omicron using lateral flow devices

Several patients have asked me if lateral flow devices (LFDs) will detect Omicron infections. These are the rapid tests that people can use to check for Covid-19 infection while they are asymptotic. NHS staff are required to use these tests regularly if they are in patient-facing roles.

Short Answer: Yes. The UK HSA has confirmed this in an initial laboratory evaluation of the LFDs currently used in the UK. The data from the initial samples in the HSA study show a similar sensitivity for the detection of Covid-19 from Omicron to that seen for previous strains of SARS-CoV-2 including Delta, which has been the predominant strain in the UK from May to December 2021.

All LFDs approved for use within the UK specifically detect the nucleocapsid protein of SARS-CoV-2 using a combination of 2 or more different antibodies, each targeting a distinct epitope. Full details of the study are available on pages 14-16 of the HAS study. Finally, remember that LFDs are not 100% sensitive and won’t detect some infections. Full details of the study are available on pages 14-16 of the HSA report.

If you have symptoms of a possible Covid-19 infection, get a PCR test. Irrespective of your test result, continue to practise good infection control measures such as wearing a face mask and avoiding higher risk venues such s very crowded indoor spaces with poor ventilation.