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UVA doctors talk new COVID breath test

WVIR Sunrise 4:30 live recording
Published: Apr. 17, 2022 at 10:36 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - The FDA has approved the first COVID-19 test that uses breath samples to detect the virus. These new FDA approved devices would provide tests in hospitals and give patients their results in less than three minutes.

Doctors at UVA still believe PCR tests are the best option.

“I think that we still feel the gold standard, the best test remains PCR testing,” Dr. Costi Sifri with UVA Health said.

Doctors at UVA Health say they will continue to use PCR tests in the hospital

“People who are coming into the health system because of illness, we really want to have the best test available and our preference, you know, it is and I think probably will remain PCR testing,” Sifri said.

But Dr. Patrick Jackson says the breath COVID-19 tests could serve a purpose.

“I think one of the major problems that we’re having currently with COVID-19 testing is availability of rapid antigen tests, especially kids don’t particularly love the the nose swab,” Jackson said.

Jackson says PCR tests can pick up old infections.

“A positive COVID test meant a whole lot in spring of 2020, and now could mean you had COVID two months ago and didn’t notice it because we were fully vaccinated and now it’s heart failure or something else. So, it is a major problem for us,” Jackson said.

It is not clear yet if breath tests would give these immediate results

“Testing that looks at an acute infection, as opposed to kind of remaining positive could also be helpful. I don’t know the test performance characteristics of this breath test, to be honest with you, but I’m hoping that it helps in one of those ways,” Jackson said.

Doctors say the more tests though the better.

“Having other options and modalities is always good and so we’ll learn more about the breath test, how it can be used and and where it may have some some importance,” Sifri said.

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