Australians who stocked up on rapid antigen tests months ago when they were in short supply are being warned to check if they’re still usable.
Beyond the expiration date on the box, consumers are warned that where they’ve stored their RATs could impact whether they’re effective at detecting the virus.
Tests are intended to be stored between 2-30C degrees, and if they are kept outside of this temperature they can then display a false negative or invalid test result.
“If the test is exposed to very hot or cold temperatures, it will degrade faster than if it’s kept at more stable temperatures,” chief executive of test manufacturer Gardian Graham Gordon said.
“Test performance may also be impacted if the test is used in outdoor temperatures below freezing – at high altitude or in the mid of winter for example, or in a very hot or humid environment – such as the harsh Australian summer.”
RATs work by detecting the nucleocapsid protein found in the virus, the test strip is painted with antibodies that change colour if they come into contact with the protein.
“The antibodies on the strip of paper are very sensitive and could be damaged by extreme heat or cold, but the solution also contains chemicals that could be influenced by extreme temperatures,” Assistant Professor in molecular medicine at UMass Chan Medical School said.
If you’re unsure that you’ve kept your tests in the correct temperature range in the past few months, the advice is to play it safe.
“If in doubt, throw it out,” Mr Gordon recommends.
“It’s better to be safe than sorry, so protect you, your loved ones and your colleagues leading up to the holidays and beyond. Nobody wants Covid for Christmas” Gordon concludes.”
Some RAT kits may have an expiration date on their box for four to six months after they were manufactured, however this may have changed as real world data rolls in.
The Therapeutic Goods Administration has extended the expiration dates of RAT kits to 12, 15, or 18 months in some cases.
Manufacturers such as Gardian have begun to let consumers know that their products now have an extended shelf life.
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