Virolens or Lateral Flow: Which Covid test should you trust?

In recent weeks lateral flow Covid tests have received a lot of negative media coverage. P.T Barnum coined the phrase ‘there’s no such thing as bad publicity’ but in relation to lateral flow tests, that doesn’t seem to be the case.

The Telegraph reported that officials have raised concerns about the accuracy of quick Covid tests, and that a senior executive cautioned that between just two and ten percent of positive lateral flow tests could be accurate. The Guardian referenced the Cochrane review (carried out by a team of International Independent experts) which concluded that the sampled antigen tests correctly identify only 58% of asymptomatic people, and should not be used to allow people to go back to work, school or travel.  

Instant Covid Tests London uses Virolens technology to conduct all of its testing. Virolens differs to existing tests on the market by using physics rather than chemistry to detect the virus. Where other tests use a chemical based reaction to identify the virus, Virolens creates a highly magnified holographic image of the sample, which is then analysed by artificial intelligence to detect the presence of Covid-19.

In this post we’ve taken a look at some of the key issues surrounding Covid testing and compared the differences between Virolens and some of the other rapid Covid tests available on the market.

Identifying Asymptomatic Covid-19 Cases

In order for testing to safely reopen workplaces, sporting events, theatres and other activities where there is a high risk of transmission, it is vital that anyone who is infectious with Covid 19, but asymptomatic is identified. This will help those people, who are unaware they have the disease, from transmitting it to other people. As reported in the British Medical Journal, lateral flow tests are better at identifying people with symptoms. The Guardian even went as far as to report that rapid Covid testing in England may be scaled back over the worry that too many false positive results are being produced by lateral flow tests. If you can’t locate the people you are looking for and the results can’t be trusted, can this really be the way forward for mass Covid testing?

Virolens works by physically looking for the presence of the virus by using a combination of a high powered holographic microscope, AI and a neural network computer. Rather than relying on high viral loads to trigger a chemical reaction, as is the case with lateral flow tests, it is able to correctly identify low levels of virions, in asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic cases, that other rapid tests may miss. This makes it a much more reliable alternative to lateral flow tests, especially when it comes to safely trying to open the areas of society that have been closed throughout lockdown, or rely on testing to continue safely operating.

The User Experience

It may seem strange to talk about user experience and Covid testing in the same sentence, but it’s something that is often overlooked. Deep nasal and oral swabbing, required for many lateral flow tests, is extremely uncomfortable and makes the prospect of a regular testing program daunting for the end user.  As lateral flow tests are easy to procure, the quality of the infrastructure and level of staff training required for the administration of the test can vary wildly.

Instant Covid Tests London offers a premium experience that makes taking the test refreshingly simple, and can be easily added to someone’s weekly routine. To take the Virolens test you simple swab your own tongue and side of mouth, place the swab into the lid of a cartridge, and the machine operator will do the rest. The test is easily booked online and conducted in our custom designed booths, built to keep everyone protected and provide privacy. You will be told your result whilst you are still in the booth and, assuming there is no virus detected, will be free to go about your day. There is no waiting around, the whole process takes on average 3mins, with the result taking just 20 seconds.

As part of ICTL’s healthcare management system all of the staff undergo rigorous training, and will guide each customer through the process of the test, helping them understand how the Virolens machine technology works to generate their result.      

Point of Care Testing

The speed of the result is often cited as one of the main advantages of lateral flow Covid tests. However there is still a waiting period, of between 15 to 30 minutes, and there is no guarantee that the sample was taken correctly first time, making it necessary to retake the test.

Virolens is the first solution to introduce a genuine point of care test, meaning that you get the result as you take the test, with only a 20 second wait. The machines are self-diagnostic, so if the sample can’t be read first time, it can be re-submitted into the machine and you are guaranteed an outcome every time. Having an instant point of care test, such as Virolens, means that if someone does test positive action can be taken immediately to avoid any further spread of the virus.


For a testing program to have maximum impact you need to be sure the test is actually being taken and the result can be relied upon. BBC Panorama reported issues with PCR test samples being mixed up at labs, and with home lateral flow testing, there is a concern that the tests will not always be done properly, especially when they are so uncomfortable and difficult to administer.

A digital solution such as Virolens creates an end to end system with full traceability. The test is booked using the ICTL system and the Virolens result recorded at point of care into the same system with the result reported directly to Public Health England. This digital flow of information reduces the potential for human error and uncertainty around the test participation and result.    


A word of caution, if something seems too good to be true, it generally is. There has been a large increase in the amount of lateral flow tests available, which has led to a huge decrease in price but also in quality. The UK Government are becoming increasingly concerned about the amount of poor quality lateral flow tests being sold and are now looking to bring in additional validation for testing

This is something that both Instant Covid Tests London and Virolens welcome, as we believe testing should not only be affordable, but also extremely reliable. We recommend that you make sure whenever speaking to a supplier that you do your due diligence, and don’t be scared of asking lots of questions. If the testing provider can’t answer these, it’s better to look elsewhere to ensure that you are delivering a safe testing program that can be trusted. 

Instant point of care testing using Virolens is now available via Instant Covid Tests London, who are the only current UK providers of this system. The tests are available to be taken at our London screening centre or can be mobilised and setup at a workplace with high volumes of people.

Get in touch to learn more and how we can help you with your Covid testing strategy.