How long they last – and whether they recognize new variants

imago images 145346992A Corona self-test: Are they also effective on new mutants? (Source: Norbert Neetz via

With the rising corona numbers, testing is starting again. But do our tests detect new variants – and can I still use self-tests from last year?

Autumn is coming – and with it comes the cold season. The number of confirmed corona cases is also increasing again in Germany . The new variant “Pirola” (BA.2.86) was also detected for the first time, as shown in last week’s weekly report from the Robert Koch Institute.

With the increased corona numbers, many are again turning to an old companion from the pandemic period: the corona test. Can you still use the old or expired test from the drawer? And do the self-tests also detect the newer mutations? t-online answers these questions.

How long do Corona self-tests last?

As with food, the same applies to medicines and cosmetics – the products do not go bad immediately after their expiry date. This means: If a test expires on September 30th, it will not automatically be unusable on October 1st.

According to experts, even expired tests can be used for longer. The Bremen virologist Andreas Dotzauer explains to the “Nordsee Zeitung” that you can “use them for two to three months beyond the expiry date” – if they have been stored at room temperature. They will last in the refrigerator for about three months after their expiration date.

After that, you shouldn’t use them anymore, according to the virologist. Some components of the tests, such as proteins, only last for a certain period of time. The result is that the result of the test may be distorted.

How do you know how long a test will last?

On the packaging of self-tests you will find – usually on the back – two dates with symbols. There is a factory symbol next to one date, which indicates the date of manufacture. The other symbol, an hourglass, marks the expiry date. As a rule, corona tests have a shelf life of around one year from the date of manufacture – a little longer if stored correctly.

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The back of a Corona self-test with the production and expiry date. (Source: via

Do the self-tests detect the new Corona variant?

Over the course of the corona pandemic, the virus has mutated again and again – and now researchers continue to detect new variants. The mutant EG.5., also called “Eris”, currently dominates in Germany. In addition, the variant BA.2.86 or “Pirola” has now also been detected.

Accordingly, the corona vaccines have also been adapted to current variants. But does that also mean that we now need adapted tests to detect newer mutants?The Munich virologist Ulrike Protzer explained to t-online in an interview that the tests also detect the new Corona variants. If you want to be sure that the result is reliable, you should repeat the test after 48 hours, recommends Protzer. 


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