What is a Lateral Flow Test?

A lateral flow test is just one of the many types of test that can be put together during immunoassay development. These tests are generally created through an immunoassay development process to serve as means to reach home, laboratory or medical diagnoses. Simplistically speaking, they are carried out in order to detect the presence or lack of a particular target analyte in a sample.


Generally, immunoassay development programmes are started to test bodily fluids like urine and serum and lateral flow tests are one of the standard platforms that such development programmes use to perform these tests.


The tests themselves are sometimes referred to as lateral flow immunochromatographic assays and they are most commonly found in home pregnancy tests and medical tests like HIV tests, malaria tests, fertility tests and drug tests. Assay development companies are still putting lateral flow tests to new uses too.

How Does the Test Work?

Immunoassay development programmes often make use of lateral flow tests because they are extremely practical, usable ways to get results fast. In basic terms, this is how they work:

    The sample is inducted into the test by 'capillary action'. This means that the sample is placed on a dipstick and then essentially 'sucked' or 'soaked' into the test proper along a component called the solid substrate.
    Once within the test the sample reaches a coloured reagent. This is mixed with the sample and then coats the substrate.
    As the surface of the substrate has been pre-treated with areas of antigen or antibody, the analytes which have been bound to the coloured reagent will cause certain patterns or areas on the substrate to become coloured, indicating the presence or absence of the analyte you're interested in.

Advantages of Lateral Flow Tests

One of the main reasons that these tests are still used during assay development programmes is that they are extremely quick and easy to use. This means that they can give almost immediate answers in a clinical setting, and can be conducted in a home-environment by non-medical professionals.

Often, however, there is a pay-off between speed and sensitivity. Depending on the immunoassay development provider you choose, and the requirements you have, your particular test will tend to either be fairly slow but highly accurate or very quick, but less accurate. Of course, there is a middle point but most immunoassay development teams would encourage you to opt for one end of the spectrum or another, to reap at least one area of the benefits.


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