At the very beginning of the COVID-19 Pandemic, I had the opportunity to enroll in a community partnership study sponsored by my local research hospital. The study is described as follows:
Every morning, I receive an e-mail in which I note my symptoms, if I have sought treatment for those symptoms, if I wore a mask while interacting in public, do I know of any COVID-19 exposures, and do I have any new COVID-19 test results. It takes only a few seconds for me to fill out, and I try to do it daily.
I was also part of a group selected for in-home test kits. The study mailed me six kits with the expectation that I use a test kit once a month. They were provided by Scanwell. Although these kits are not currently available to the public, they are working towards that as a goal. As such, I wanted to share with you my experience using the Scanwell At-Home Antibody Test Kit.
What’s in the box?
The At-Home Antibody Test Kit by Scanwell provides everything needed to complete the test in a well organized box. It contains two alcohol pads, two specialty lancets, a dropper to collect the blood, the special diluent for the test, a calibration card, the test cassette, and a band-aide. Please note that this test does require the use of a smartphone app.
How do I test?
Scanwell provides you with very simple to follow ten step instructions within the box. However, I created my own instructions based on my experience. Somehow, I came up with nine steps instead of ten. I hope you find this information fascinating and useful.
Step One: Download the App
The test is absolutely worthless without the smartphone app. Originally, their app was just available for iOS. However, the Android version was released late last year. I use the Android version, but I do believe that the experiences are similar.
Step Two: Scan the QR Code
When you first open up the app, it is very simple in nature. It just asks for you to scan the QR code. As each test kit contains a unique QR code, the QR code informs the app exactly what test you shall be performing. Once scanned. the app will load the appropriate instructional video.
Step Three: Watch the Video
In addition to providing written instructions, Scanwell provides you with a video to walk you through the processes. It’s relatively short with chapter markers that allow you to replay certain sections if you need to repeat certain steps. I typically watch the video once, and then replay it a second time as I follow along.
Step Four: Poke your Finger
Scanwell provides two lancets, just in case you need to double poke. They also recommend that you vigorously massage your hand and finger before you poke in order to get the blood flowing. When ready, you twist and pull the small thin rod on the lancet to remove it. After that, you press the end of the lancet hard against your finger and press the button at the end of the lancet.
Although I do have lancets from my blood glucose testing kit, I recommend using the lancets provided in the kit.
Step Five: Fill the Collection Tube
It is worth emphasizing that this test requires significantly more blood than a blood glucose finger prick test. In fact, the written instructions recommend switching between massaging your finger and collecting blood in the tube until the blood reaches the little white section. It seems to take me two to three times of alternating between squeezing and collecting in order to gather a large enough sample.
I am thankful that I have no problem dealing with blood (it’s almost a requirement when you’re chronically ill), but your queasy friends might struggle with this type of test.
Step Six: Fill the Test Cassette
This is the point of the test where they ask for you to open up the foil pouch and remove the test cassette. From there, you push down on the purple plunger in order to fill up the bottom of the test cassette with the collected sample. Personally, I find this step fun.
After the collection tube has been emptied into the test cassette, you are required to add two drops of the diluent directly into the same hole.
Step Seven: Wait
Once step six has been completed, you start a timer in the Scanwell app. The timer is for twelve minutes and runs in the background of your smartphone. I typically start doing chores as I’m waiting. I do appreciate how the app buzzes you to alert you when there is only fifteen seconds left. This gives you enough time to return to the test and prepare for step eight.
Step Eight: Take a Picture
Once the timer has gone off, the app will prompt you to take a picture of the cassette on top of the scan card provided in the kit. This card acts as a source of calibration and is what allows Scanwell to be able to interpret the results from any smartphone camera.
While I do enjoy completing step six (Push the purple plunger!), I also get great joy over geeking out as I consider the image processing algorithms required to make this type of technology work.
Step Nine: Receive the Results
Please note that while this is considered a fast test, it does not provide instant results. Scanwell prefers to have a human verify each test result. In my experience, that seems to take typically two to three days. When my results are available, I receive an e-mail.
So far, none of my tests have detected SARS-CoV-2 antibodies. I have four months of test kits left, and I will be curious to see if that trend continues. For the most part, I am still remaining isolated and locked down until I gain access to the COVID-19 vaccine. I do not want to catch this virus with my Adrenal Insufficiency.
The ScanWell At-Home Antibody Test Kit is relatively simple to use, especially for those of us within the chronically ill community already accustomed to performing medical tests on ourselves. While these antibody test results are not designed to tell you if you have a current active COVID-19 infection, the data collected will be useful for determining just how much the coronavirus has spread within the community.
I am incredibly grateful to have been enrolled in a research study that allowed me the opportunity to access this type of technology before it became available to the general public. I can see these smartphone powered tests to gain more popularity. It will be exciting to see the new breakthroughs in the future.