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

The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has positioned the world in a tailspin, which the healthcare industry has responded to in kind with the development and rapid deployment of tests designed to detect infection. Many of these tests assist clinicians and researchers accurately establish severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), the virus answerable for COVID-19.

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

Types of COVID-19 Tests

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

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

At-home collection tests: Tests performed at home are only available by a physician’s prescription. These tests permit the affected person to self-acquire a pattern in their residence and send it to a lab for analysis.

Saliva tests: These tests rely on samples from sufferers who spit into a tube versus getting their throat or nose swabbed. For some individuals, saliva tests could also be more comfortable and likewise safer, particularly for frontline healthcare workers.

Diagnostic Tests: Molecular vs Antigen Tests

There are two foremost 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 can be challenging for some people, particularly considering the speedy evolution on testing guidance on testing options. While each test options its own limitations, molecular tests are perhaps the simplest strategies available.

Below is an summary of those different tests, together with what they can do to determine the disease and their limitations.


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


Minimally invasive – carried out using nasal swabs, throat swabs and tests of saliva or other bodily fluids

Permits for social distancing – while some molecular tests, including RT-PCR, are sometimes conducted at a hospital or clinic, swabs can also be taken from the patient’s car or at residence

Fewer false negatives in some instances – deep nasal swabs could have fewer false negatives compared with different tests, reminiscent of throat swabs or saliva tests


Lengthy turnaround instances – in some instances, RT-PCR tests can yield ends in the same day or within one to two days, but test results taking up to one to 2 weeks have been reported throughout the pandemic

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

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

Antigen Tests

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


Speedy outcomes: The test makes use of technology just like that utilized in a pregnancy test and yields outcomes within minutes


Carried out at a hospital or clinic: At-dwelling antigen tests usually are not widely available, so sufferers typically need 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, together with SARS-CoV-2. Antibodies are proteins that the body produces to fight active invading viruses and active infections. This test is also known as a serological test, blood test and serology test and includes taking a pattern with a finger stick or blood draw.

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