3 at-home rapid coronavirus tests are hitting the market. Here's how to get them and use them.

  • One thing to look forward to in 2021 is the rollout of rapid coronavirus tests you can take at home.
  • Lucira Health, Ellume, and most recently Abbott Laboratories have been granted emergency use authorization for fully at-home COVID-19 tests.
  • The companies expect the tests will be available in early 2021, but it’s possible they won’t be in widespread use until the summer.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Experts have been calling for the development of rapid, at-home COVID-19 tests since the start of the pandemic. While the speedier tests aren’t quite as sensitive as the gold-standard RT-PCR, they could give people an extra tool to minimize the spread of the coronavirus in 2021.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, one of the nation’s top infectious disease doctors, has emphasized the impact that widely available home testing could have on the pandemic. In a special edition of Sirius XM’s “Doctor Radio Reports,” Fauci said the emergency use authorization of Ellume’s at-home test was “a long time coming.”

“I’m glad it’s here and I think, if used properly, it would go a long way to getting people to appreciate whether they’re infected or not and prevent them from exposing themselves to other people,” Fauci told host Dr. Marc Siegel. “I really think this is a big positive.”

The US Food and Drug Administration issued an EUA for Ellume’s test, an over-the-counter kit that can detect active COVID-19 in 15 minutes or less, on December 15. Abbott Laboratories and Lucira Health were also granted EUAs for at-home tests this year, and more options are in various stages of research and FDA authorization.

Both Ellume and Abbott have said they’ll be able to deliver millions of tests in the first quarter of 2021, but public health experts have offered more conservative timelines of when the kits will be readily accessible.

“At-home testing will be widely available probably late spring to summer,” Ashish Jha, Dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, previously told Insider. “I wish it was earlier than that, but I think widespread testing will be available, not at home, but in other contexts, well before then. Which will make a really big difference.” 

Ellume’s test is currently the only over-the-counter option you can use at home

Ellume has been working on a better, faster diagnostic technology since the 2009 swine flu pandemic. The result of a decade of research and development is an electronic analyzer that can connect to your smartphone via Bluetooth and delivers results within 15 minutes.

“This is the kind of core technology that we feel the world needs to respond to the next pandemic as well,” Ellume founder and CEO Dr. Sean Parsons told Insider.

The COVID-19 Home Test is being manufactured in Australia, where the company is based, but it’s specifically designated for use in the US. Unlike the other at-home tests on the market, it will be available over-the-counter for people with or without COVID-19 symptoms.

How does the test work?

Ellume’s rapid antigen test comes with a free smartphone app that provides step-by-step instructions and a how-to video. The first step is to turn on the electronic analyzer, which looks like a pregnancy test, and pair it to your phone via Bluetooth. 

Ellume

Parsons demonstrated the test in a Zoom interview with Insider. After removing the child adapter — designed for swabbing smaller noses — he stuck the swab up his nostril until its cap touched his nose and made three rotations per nostril.

Ellume

The test also screens for a protein that lives in your mucous to make sure you got a thorough swab, he said. If the sample is insufficient, you’ll get an inconclusive result, but most people were able to follow the directions and get a good swab in the trial.

Ellume

Then, he screwed the swab into a squeezable container, which he had previously filled with orange processing fluid. The swab cap handily converts into a dropper for depositing the fluid on the analyzer. Within 15 minutes of squeezing out the droplets, Parsons got a message on the app confirming that he did not have COVID-19.

How accurate is it?

Ellume’s test is 96% accurate when compared to the RT-PCR test. In a clinical study of 198 people, the test caught 96% of cases in symptomatic individuals and 91% of cases in asymptomatic individuals.

When will it be available?

Parsons said the first shipments of the Ellume COVID-19 Home Test are going out in the first week of January, but Americans will likely have to wait until February to see it in stores.

Ellume is on track to ship 100,000 tests per day in January and 200,000 tests per day by March, with the goal of delivering 20 million tests in the first half of 2021.

How much will it cost?

Target price: $30

Abbott’s BinaxNOW will be the cheapest home test, but you’ll need a prescription 

Abbott is bringing its already approved rapid antigen test into the home with the help of eMed, a digital health solutions provider. The BinaxNOW Ag Card Home Test, designed for use alongside the NAVICA app, was granted an EUA on December 16 and will be shipped to states starting January 1, 2021.

Unlike Ellume’s test kit, this home test is available by prescription only to people with suspected COVID-19 symptoms. eMed takes care of determining eligibility and ensuring an accurate self-collection with the help of trained telehealth proctors.

“Our goal is just to get people back to school and to work, and we think our process and this eMed-Abott partnership really supports us getting to where we need to be regarding increasing accessibility and affordability and confidence in the test results,” Dr. Patrice Harris, CEO of eMed, told Insider.

How does the test work?

To qualify for the BinaxNOW home test, you start by downloading the NAVICA app and filling out a symptom questionnaire. A health professional will review your responses and decide whether to prescribe a test, which will then be delivered to your home.

A woman drops processing fluid on the BinaxNOW test card.
Jeffrey Rosenthal

Before opening the package, you have to sign on to a proctored testing session via the NAVICA app. Then, a trained teleworker will walk you through the testing process: swab each nostril five times, count out loud as you deposit six drops of processing fluid on the test card, rub the swab on the test card, and finally close it.

The test card will show one line for a negative result and two lines for a positive, and the virtual proctor can take a look to confirm the results and give advice on next steps.

How accurate is it?

The BinaxNOW test was previously approved and has been tested on 460 people. Compared to RT-PCR tests, it caught 84.6% of cases.

The at-home version of BinaxNOW was only tested on 52 people before the EUA was granted,  with a performance of 91.7% positive agreement and 100% negative agreement.

When will it be available?

Harris said the Abbott/eMed team is working with states to offer tests to residents starting in January, with the goal of delivering 30 million tests in the first quarter of 2021. By the second quarter, they hope to administer an additional 90 million home tests.

How much will it cost?

$25

Lucira’s home test will also be available for prescription use in early 2021

Lucira Health’s home test was the first fully self-administered COVID-19 test to get an EUA. But since the authorization was granted on November 17, the company hasn’t released any updates about when the test will be rolled out.

Compared to other rapid tests, Lucira’s is fairly accurate but a bit pricier and slower than its at-home competitors. It also looks different from the Ellume and BinaxNOW tests.

How does the test work?

After taking a thorough nasal swab, the patient is meant to stir the swab in a vial of processing fluid. Rather than dropping the fluid on a separate analyzer card, you can place the whole vial into a battery-operated test unit. 

The test unit’s indicator light will switch from “ready” to “done” within 30 minutes, and a separate light will tell you if you are positive or negative for COVID-19.

How accurate is it?

The Lucira test caught 94% of positive cases compared to a RT-PCR test, based on a clinical trial of 100 people. Excluding samples with very low levels of virus that possibly no longer reflected active infection, Lucira achieved 100% positive agreement.

When will it be available?

According to Lucira’s website, the company hopes to make the test available in the next few months.

How much will it cost?

Target price: $50

Loading
Something is loading.