Lollipop tests in schools and daycare centers: How they work – and how reliable they are
More and more German states are using lollipop tests in daycare centers and schools to test children for the coronavirus.
Lolli tests are an alternative to conventional PCR and antigen tests.
Since they are usually tested using the PCR method, the lollipop tests are also considered to be very safe.
In the fight against the Corona pandemic, many daycare centers and schools are now using lollipop tests instead of the usual rapid antigen tests. In Berlin, too, daycare children have been able to take lollipop tests since 24 September. January, carry out three such lollipop tests per week. In other German states, the child-friendly tests have already been in use for some time. But how do the lollipop tests actually work – and how safe are they??
What are lollipop tests??
The so-called Lolli tests are corona tests specially produced for children. The test is performed by sucking on the stick, as with a lollipop. This is to prevent the particularly unpleasant pushing of the test stick into the nose or throat, which characterizes the conventional rapid tests. The tests are usually available as PCR pool tests.
How does a lollipop test work?
In the lollipop test, children suck on the test stick for at least 30 seconds. Then, in the pool method, all the rods are placed in a test tube. The tests are then sent to the laboratory and within a day the result is reported. The advantage for the laboratories: less effort.
If at least one stick is positive, the facility is notified. Children must then perform another individual test at home. The legal guardians then hand in the individual sample to the respective care facility, labelled by name. The individual samples are then sent to the laboratory again and examined.
Where are the Lolli tests used??
Lollipop tests are now used in many daycare centers and schools. The Robert Koch Institute (RKI) also recommends the use of lollipop pool PCRs for preventive testing of children in daycare centers and elementary schools. The saliva test is "easy to carry out" and therefore "ensures a high level of acceptance among children."
How reliable are lollipop tests?
As the RKI writes in its "Epidemiological Bulletin", the Lolli tests are very reliable for medium and high viral loads. They even have a higher sensitivity than the conventional antigen rapid tests, because they are examined in the PCR procedure by the laboratories. Depending on the manufacturer, their sensitivity is between 90 and 98 percent, which means that 90 to 98 percent of infections are actually detected by the lollipop tests.
Researchers from the University Hospital Dusseldorf also come to this conclusion. For a study, they tested the Lolli tests for their sensitivity and feasibility. They tested over a period of up to ten weeks more than 4.000 children and adolescents as well as the staff of daycare centers and schools at five locations in Germany. They have now published their results in the renowned journal "Lancet EClinicalMedicine".
However, the study was conducted before the spread of the delta and omicron variants. So far, there are no reliable data on how reliably the lollipop tests detect an infection with the Omikron variant. However, the PCR pool tests are easy to perform and uncomplicated in any case, according to the study. Their result is also said to be equivalent to that of a throat swab. "In addition, the actual testing and test evaluation will be taken from the students and school staff and carried out in certified laboratories," explains study leader Alexander Joachim of the University Hospital of Cologne.