Information given by websites selling home self-sampling COVID-19 tests: an analysis of accuracy and completeness

Sian Taylor-Phillips, Sarah Berhane, Alice Sitch, Karoline Freeman, Malcolm Price, Clare Davenport, Julia Geppert, Isobel Harris, Osemeke Osokogu, Magdalena Skrybant, Jon Deeks

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Objectives: To assess the accuracy and completeness of information provided by websites selling home self-sampling and testing kits for COVID-19.

Design: Cross-sectional observational study.

Setting: All websites (n=27) selling direct to user home self-sampling and testing for COVID-19 (41 tests) in the UK (39 tests) and US (2 tests) identified by a website search on 23rd May 2020.

Main outcome measures — Thirteen predefined basic information items to communicate to a user, including who should be tested, when and how testing should be done, test accuracy, and interpretation of results.

Results: Many websites did not provide the name or manufacturer of the test (32/41; 78%), when to use the test (10/41; 24%), test accuracy (12/41; 29%), and how to interpret results (21/41; 51%). Sensitivity and specificity were the most commonly reported test accuracy measures (either reported for 27/41 (66%) tests); we could only link these figures to manufacturers’ documents or publications for four (10%) tests. Predictive values, most relevant to users, were rarely reported (five [12%] tests reported positive predictive values). For molecular virus tests, 9/23 (39%) websites explained that test positives should self-isolate, and 8/23 (35%) explained that test negatives may still have the disease. For antibody tests, 12/18 (67%) websites explained that testing positive does not necessarily infer immunity from future infection. Seven (39%) websites selling antibody tests claimed the test had a CE mark, when they were for a different intended use (venous blood rather than finger-prick samples).

Conclusions: At the point of online purchase of home self-sampling COVID-19 tests, users in the UK are provided with incomplete, and in some cases misleading information on test accuracy, intended use and test interpretation. Best practice guidance for communication about tests to the public should be developed and enforced for online sales of COVID-19 tests.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere042453
JournalBMJ open
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 6 Nov 2020


  • COVID-19
  • health policy
  • infectious diseases
  • public health
  • public health

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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