Pros and Cons of the Common Types of COVID-19 Tests

The coronavirus illness 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has placed the world in a tailspin, which the healthcare trade has responded to in kind with the development and rapid deployment of tests designed to detect infection. Many of those tests assist clinicians and researchers accurately identify extreme acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), the virus accountable for COVID-19.

And while these tests have been crucial in identifying and tracking cases of infection and illness-associated morbidity and mortality, they aren’t without their potential drawbacks.

Types of COVID-19 Tests

Several new methods have been developed to diagnose COVID-19, lots of which have their own various strategies of administration and distinctive benefits:

Speedy, point-of-care diagnostic tests: These tests, which can be categorized as either antigen or molecular tests, depend on a mucus sample obtained from the throat or nose and is analyzed at a clinic or physician’s office. Results from these tests can usually be available within minutes of analysis.

At-home assortment tests: Tests performed at dwelling are only available by a doctor’s prescription. These tests permit the affected person to self-collect a pattern of their dwelling and send it to a lab for analysis.

Saliva tests: These tests depend on samples from patients who spit right into a tube versus getting their throat or nostril swabbed. For some folks, saliva tests could also be more comfortable and also safer, especially for frontline healthcare workers.

Diagnostic Tests: Molecular vs Antigen Tests

There are fundamental types of COVID-19 tests – diagnostic tests and antibody tests. Diagnostic tests embrace molecular tests, akin to reverse transcription polymerase chain response (RT-PCR) and antigen tests.

Getting a test for COVID-19 may be challenging for some folks, especially considering the speedy evolution on testing guidance on testing options. While each test options its own limitations, molecular tests are maybe the simplest strategies available.

Beneath is an outline of those different tests, including what they’ll do to determine the illness and their limitations.


The RT-PCR is the most typical test that is ceaselessly used to detect the virus’s genetic material in the body. Using this test, patients can know whether or not or not they’ve an active COVID-19 infection and might adjust their lifestyle accordingly (i.e., quarantine).


Minimally invasive – performed utilizing nasal swabs, throat swabs and tests of saliva or other bodily fluids

Allows for social distancing – while some molecular tests, including RT-PCR, are typically carried out at a hospital or clinic, swabs will also be taken from the patient’s automotive or at dwelling

Fewer false negatives in some instances – deep nasal swabs will have fewer false negatives compared with other tests, equivalent to throat swabs or saliva tests


Long turnaround times – in some cases, RT-PCR tests can yield results in the same day or within one to two days, but test outcomes taking up to one to 2 weeks have been reported in the course of the pandemic

False negatives – molecular tests have been shown to produce results that say the patient doesn’t have the virus after they truly do; the rates of false-positives have ranged from 2% to 37%

Uncomfortable for some people – deep nasal swabs could be uncomfortable for some people, especially small children

Antigen Tests

Antigen tests, which are performed utilizing a nasal or throat swab, help detect particular protein fragments residing on the surface of the virus. These tests characteristic a high false-negative rate, however, leading to many clinicians ordering molecular testing for patients with negative antigen tests who display the classic signs and symptoms of COVID-19.


Fast results: The test uses technology similar to that utilized in a pregnancy test and yields outcomes within minutes


Carried out at a hospital or clinic: At-dwelling antigen tests will not be widely available, so patients typically have to journey to a hospital or clinic to have this test performed

High false-negative rate: Antigen tests produce higher false-negative rates than molecular RT-PCR tests, with some proof suggesting rates as high as 50%

Antibody Tests

Antibody tests look for particular antibodies generated by the immune system in response to a virus, including SARS-CoV-2. Antibodies are proteins that the body produces to fight active invading viruses and active infections. This test can be known as a serological test, blood test and serology test and includes taking a pattern with a finger stick or blood draw.

It can take a number of days or weeks to develop antibodies after viral exposure, but these proteins typically stay in the blood for a number of weeks after recovery. Subsequently, antibody tests show whether or not a person has had an infection, making them not effective for diagnosing an active coronavirus infection. Likewise, there’s not sufficient ample evidence to suggest that the presence of those antibodies determine that the immune system is protected from future publicity to a coronavirus.

FDA Works Additional time to Approve Diagnostic Tests for COVID-19

The FDA has been working with a number of diagnostic companies, together with LabCorp Diagnostics, to grant Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for COVID-19 diagnostic tests that provide speedy results. Additionally, the FDA has issued coverage guidance that gives regulatory flexibility to laboratories and commercial manufacturers that perform high-complicatedity testing and create tests for the coronavirus.

More Testing Provides Higher Perception Into COVID-19

Worldwide deployment of effective COVID-19 tests is essential for gaining increased understanding about the spread of the virus, which may play a task find a way to cease it. Widescale adoption of antibody tests, while limiting in detecting an active infection, may additionally be helpful for decide whether recovered patients have lengthy-time period immunity from the virus.

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