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

The coronavirus illness 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has positioned the world in a tailspin, which the healthcare business 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 establish severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), the virus responsible for COVID-19.

And while these tests have been essential in figuring out and tracking cases of infection and disease-associated morbidity and mortality, they aren’t without their potential drawbacks.

Types of COVID-19 Tests

Several new strategies have been developed to diagnose COVID-19, many of which have their own alternative strategies of administration and unique benefits:

Fast, level-of-care diagnostic tests: These tests, which might be labeled as either antigen or molecular tests, rely on a mucus sample obtained from the throat or nostril and is analyzed at a clinic or doctor’s office. Outcomes from these tests can usually be available within minutes of analysis.

At-house assortment tests: Tests performed at dwelling are only available by a health care provider’s prescription. These tests allow the affected person to self-gather a pattern of their residence and send it to a lab for analysis.

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

Diagnostic Tests: Molecular vs Antigen Tests

There are two primary types of COVID-19 tests – diagnostic tests and antibody tests. Diagnostic tests include molecular tests, reminiscent of reverse transcription polymerase chain response (RT-PCR) and antigen tests.

Getting a test for COVID-19 could be difficult for some folks, especially considering the rapid evolution on testing guidance on testing options. While every test options its own limitations, molecular tests are maybe the most effective strategies available.

Under is an overview of those different tests, together with what they’ll do to establish the illness and their limitations.


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


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

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

Fewer false negatives in some cases – deep nasal swabs can have fewer false negatives compared with different tests, akin to throat swabs or saliva tests


Long turnaround instances – in some instances, RT-PCR tests can yield results in the identical day or within one to two days, however test results taking as much as one to two weeks have been reported during the pandemic

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

Uncomfortable for some individuals – deep nasal swabs might be uncomfortable for some individuals, especially small children

Antigen Tests

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


Speedy outcomes: The test uses technology similar to that utilized in a being pregnant test and yields results within minutes


Carried out at a hospital or clinic: At-home antigen tests are not widely available, so patients typically should travel to a hospital or clinic to have this test carried out

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 combat active invading viruses and active infections. This test can be known as a serological test, blood test and serology test and entails taking a sample with a finger stick or blood draw.

It may well take a number of days or weeks to develop antibodies after viral exposure, however these proteins typically remain in the blood for a number of weeks after recovery. Subsequently, antibody tests show whether a person has had an infection, making them not effective for diagnosing an active coronavirus infection. Likewise, there is not enough enough evidence to recommend that the presence of those antibodies decide that the immune system is protected from future publicity to a coronavirus.

FDA Works Time beyond regulation to Approve Diagnostic Tests for COVID-19

The FDA has been working with several diagnostic corporations, including LabCorp Diagnostics, to grant Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for COVID-19 diagnostic tests that provide fast results. Additionally, the FDA has issued policy guidance that offers regulatory flexibility to laboratories and commercial manufacturers that carry out high-complexity testing and create tests for the coronavirus.

More Testing Provides Larger Insight Into COVID-19

Worldwide deployment of effective COVID-19 tests is essential for gaining increased understanding in regards to the spread of the virus, which may play a job find a way to stop it. Widescale adoption of antibody tests, while limiting in detecting an active infection, may also be useful for determine whether recovered patients have lengthy-term immunity from the virus.

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