The 3 Different Types of COVID-19 Tests and How They Work

The number of COVID-19 cases is rising each day. Because of this, healthcare professionals encourage the public to get tested for the COVID-19 virus.
People who are experiencing any symptoms or have been exposed to positive tested people should get tested immediately. But what are the different COVID-19 tests and, how do they work?

How Each Test Type Works
1. RT-PCR (Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction)
RT-PCR tests detect the virus’s genetic material in a sample. A sample is collected from a patient’s nose or throat; it is treated with several chemical solutions that remove proteins and fast and extracts the present RNA in the sample.
The extracted RNA is a mix of the patient’s genetic material and, if present, the virus’s RNA. It is then placed in an RT-PCR machine and cycles through temperatures to trigger specific chemical reactions that create new and identical copies of the target sections’ viral DNA. This procedure is repeated multiple times to continue copying the target sections of viral DNA.
When new copies of the viral DNA sections are created, fluorescent dye released by the maker labels attached to the DNA strands is measured by the machine’s computer, which tracks the amount of dye in the sample after each cycle. When the fluorescent dye surpasses a certain level, it confirms the presence of the virus.

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2. Antigen Tests
Antigen test does not detect viral genetic material but instead detects proteins in the sample.
The detection of a specific viral antigen implies current viral infection. This test involves nasal swabbing for samples. The sample is treated with chemicals that expose it to the virus’s antigens, and the treated sample is then applied on a testing strip, which will show whether the SARS-CoV-2 antigens are present in the patient’s body.
These tests resemble pregnancy tests, with a control band and a second band appearing in samples that test positive. Antigen test results are available within hours.

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3 . Antibody Tests
Antibody testing often, referred to as serology testing, looks for antibodies of a patient that has been infected with the COVID-19 virus. This test does not check if the patient is currently infected with the virus but looks at whether the patient’s immune system has responded to infection.

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Key Takeaways 
– COVID-19 tests largely depend on the circumstance they are used.
– Viral tests like RT-PCR and antigen tests are performed if the patient when has a current infection.
– Antibody tests tell if the patients had a past infection. This test is not meant to diagnose a current infection.

As we continue to face COVID-19, it is essential to get tested when you have symptoms or have been exposed to patients who have tested positive for COVID-19.