A convenient and quick way to test yourself for Covid-19 at home but ensure you follow the instructions closely
In June 2021, the Health Minister had announced permission to use a self-screening Rapid Test Kit Antigen (RTK-Antigen kit) for detection of Covid-19 as a screening device.
By early July 2021, only two RTK-antigen kits were approved. As at Aug 13, 2021, a total of 11 self-screening Covid-19 RTK-antigen kits had been approved and nine are saliva RTK-Antigen kits. You can check the list of approved self-screening Covid-19 RTK-Antigen kits on the Medical Device Authority, Ministry of Health Malaysia’s website.
The self-saliva RTK-Antigen kit is a simple, non-invasive, and painless test compared to a nasal swab and blood test. It is easy to perform by anyone at home by following step by step per instructions.
Most of these test kits have more than 90 per cent sensitivity and almost 100 per cent specificity which make them suitable as screening devices. Furthermore, the results of these tests can be available within a few minutes.
The self-screening of Covid-19 using saliva RTK-Antigen kits are currently sold at private clinics and pharmacies or can be purchased directly online or through MySejahtera. Once purchased, this test kit should be stored in a suitable place away from sunlight and heat. The consumer is advised to check the device registration verification and expiry date before purchase. The test is invalid if performed on an unregistered or expired date device.
Adhere to the instructions
Certain precautions need to be taken before using the saliva RTK-Antigen kits at home to ensure the accuracy of this test. Activities such as kissing, eating, drinking, smoking, vaping or gargling with mouth wash must be avoided before the test.
The oral cavity needs to be rinsed with tepid plain water at least 30 minutes before the test. Saliva contaminated with foreign substances such as another person’s saliva, disinfectant liquids, or foods can affect the screening result.
Hands need to be washed properly before opening the test kit to avoid cross-contamination. The test should be done inside a room with good illumination. It is recommended this test be performed under the supervision of another adult if it is for children, the elderly and individuals with disabilities to avoid errors. However, the assistant needs to wear a glove and mask to avoid cross-contamination.
Once opened, the test kit needs to be checked by placing it on a flat surface. The instructions need to be read properly before collecting the saliva. The saliva needs to be put into the container provided and mixed well with the reagent given.
The mixture needs to be dropped in the designated hole in the test kit using a pipette as per instructions. The test results will be available in a few minutes.
Once the result is available, it is advisable to take a picture of the test kit for future reference. All materials used during the test need to be put in a plastic bag and sealed properly before being discarded into the garbage bin.
Who should use these kits
The results that show either negative, positive, or inconclusive need to be updated on MySejahtera. An inconclusive result needs to be repeated using a new test kit.
A person should start self-quarantine if the test is positive. It is recommended to do another confirmation test at a private clinic and inform the nearby Covid-19 Screening Center (CAC) for further action. Failure to report a positive result in MySejahtera is an offence under the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act.
This self-saliva RTK-Antigen test kit is encouraged for asymptomatic persons and those with close contact with Covid-19 patients who undergo self-quarantine at home. This test can be performed on the last day of quarantine if there are no symptoms for the persons who are close contacts or have returned from abroad.
Those who plan to cross States to visit children and spouses are also encouraged to do this test. By doing so, it may help reduce the risk of Covid-19 spreading.
A person with symptoms is advised to consult a medical practitioner or the CAC before performing self-screening to avoid confusion or misunderstanding. However, this self-test is not suitable for a person who requires official test Covid-19 results for travel overseas or official duty, since it does not have verification from relevant parties such as medical practitioners or laboratories. A real-time polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test still needs to be done.
In conclusion, saliva RTK-Antigen kits are convenient to use by the public for screening Covid-19. Nevertheless, these test kit prices are quite expensive in Malaysia compared to other countries. It should be regulated in public interest. — The Health
Dr Nizam Ishak is Senior Principal Assistant Director Medico-Legal Section, Medical Practice Division, Ministry of Health Malaysia while Assoc Prof Dr Tan Toh Leong is Senior Lecturer and Emergency Medical Consultant, UKM Medical Center, UKM and President and Founder of Malaysian Sepsis Alliance.