Fauci says rapid coronavirus testing could be an “important tool” to combat the pandemic

In an interview with Yahoo News National Correspondent Alexander Nazaryan, Dr. Anthony Fauci said on Monday that rapid testing for the coronavirus could be used to detect people who are positive but don’t show any symptoms.

Video Transcript

ALEXANDER NAZARYAN: Let me ask you about another thing. Michael Mina at Harvard and some Colorado researchers just did a study on rapid tests, and they believe that frequency of testing is more important than accuracy of testing. And if we could do rapid testing on a large scale, we could get this thing, in their estimation, in just a few weeks. Without discussing the particulars of that study, do you see rapid testing as a game changer?

ANTHONY FAUCI: I don't know if I'd call it a game changer, but I do feel that it is an important tool in our armamentarium of addressing something that I don't believe we have thus far addressed adequately, is that the capability of spreading in the community by people without symptoms. We clearly need the classic tests that if you want to know if a particular individual is infected because you want to do identification, isolation, and contact tracing.

I'm all for doing that, getting sensitive and accurate tests, which we do have, getting the results back quickly enough so that they're meaningful. Because one of the things that we have faced in the past-- it's gotten better in some places, but you have to be honest-- in other places, it has not gotten that much better-- namely, how long it takes for you to get a test back and how long it takes to even get a test.

Putting that aside, there's another strategy of testing, and that is the surveillance testing when, be they colleges or other institutions, factories where you have large numbers of people coming into work and employment, where you would want to know what the status is of the penetrance of infection in the group. If you can get a rapid, cheap, quick test that maybe is not as sensitive to answer the question, is this person definitely infected as opposed to saying, is this person transmitting infection-- in other words, that if you repetitively do surveillance, we know you can make up for a relative lack of exquisite sensitivity of the test.

And even in the tests that are not sensitive, what you might see is that you might miss someone who is, strictly speaking, positive, but the level of virus is so low in them that they're not going to transmit. So if the question you're asking-- is this particular college, is this factory, is this particular-- whatever institution you're talking about-- at a situation where it is unlikely you're going to be having spread, then frequent, rapid, point-of-care type tests that are given repetitively has a very important place in how we address this outbreak.