Currently, there are two types of tests for COVID-19: a molecular reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test and an antibody test. Both tests are used to detect COVID-19 but it’s important to know when to use each of them.
Molecular Testing Through RT-PCR
The RT-PCR technique targets a specific segment of the virus’ genetic material to detect the presence of COVID-19. In other words, this test looks for virus-specific RNA within a patient to detect whether or not they are positive for COVID-19. This is done using a nasal sample from a patient that is currently infected.
If you are showing symptoms or believe that you have COVID-19, your healthcare provider may choose this test to confirm.
Testing for Antibodies
Antibody tests are used to detect whether a patient has been exposed to the virus. Antibodies are proteins that are induced by an infection (or vaccine) that are created to fight off the infection. Antibody tests are used for those who feel they have had the virus but have shown only mild or no symptoms. Antibodies are often studied when searching for a vaccine, and there are several antibodies being studied for use in a coronavirus vaccine across the world.
While this test can sometimes detect whether a person is currently infected with COVID-19, it is not as effective in detecting current infections. According to the CDC, antibody tests should not be used to diagnose COVID-19.
Why is Testing For COVID-19 Important?
The coronavirus has disrupted the lives of millions across the globe and can be found on nearly every continent. Though this has effected millions just within our own borders, there are some public health experts who believe that the number is too low due to lack of testing availability. Accurate, high volume testing is critical to containing and controlling this virus, ensuring we are able to diagnose, isolate, and treat those with COVID-19. Proper diagnosis can help prevent the spread of COVID-19, even if a patient is not showing symptoms.