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COVID
July 5th, 2021
3 mins read

What Are the Different COVID-19 Test Types You Can Opt For?

There are currently two COVID-19 test types for checking COVID-19

RT-PCR tests or antigen tests are used to detect coronavirus infection

RT-PCR test procedure is currently the gold standard for diagnosing COVID-19

COVID-19 is a deadly pandemic which has affected the world globally. This is a communicable disease caused by coronavirus and primarily spreads through saliva or nose droplets. Being a respiratory illness, the most common symptoms presented by COVID-19 include dry cough, fever, and fatigue. Some of the uncommon symptoms include skin rash, loss of taste, body aches, conjunctivitis and diarrhea. While it is easy for you to recover from mild symptoms, keep a vigilant eye on serious symptoms.

The signs to watch for are difficulty in breathing, pain in chest and loss of mobility. It takes about 5 to 6 days for symptoms to be seen in an infected person. However, it can go up to 14 days as well. You can recover from mild symptoms at home, but the serious ones need more medical attention.

If you notice any of these symptoms persisting for a while, testing for COVID-19 will help in   early detection. If you test positive, it is necessary that you isolate yourself and take necessary precautions. The samples for COVID-19 test types are usually nasal swabs and throat swabs.

Additional Read: Everything to know about COVID-19 Care

There are two types of COVID-19 tests namely diagnostic and antibody tests. While diagnostic tests help detect if there is an active infection, antibody tests check for the presence of antibodies in your body as an immune response to infection.

COVID-19 test types

  • What is the RT-PCR test procedure

RT-PCR test or a reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction helps in detecting the genetic material of the virus. You will be able to know whether you have been infected with the virus or not. RT-PCR test can detect viral fragments even if you are asymptomatic.

RT-PCR test procedure involves three important steps:  

  • Collection of samples 
  • Extraction of the viral genetic material from the sample 
  • PCR step where chemicals detect the presence of the virus

A swab is used to collect the respiratory material from your nose and throat. After that, an extraction process is done to isolate the genetic material of the virus. Finally, using the PCR step, duplicate copies of this viral genetic material are produced. Chemicals then signal the presence of SARS-CoV-2. RT-PCR report is available within 24 hours post sample collection. [1]

  • What is the antigen test? 

As the name suggests, this test detects the presence of antigens on the viral surface. Antigen tests are also called as rapid tests as you get results within 15 to 30 minutes. This test is less accurate than a RT-PCR test. [1,2,3] However, it is most useful when done right when you exhibit symptoms.

The CoviSelf test is a rapid antigen self-test kit that helps you get results within 15 minutes from the comfort of your home. The test report is available through the CoviSelf app. The kit consists of a safe swab, disposal bag, pre-filled extraction tube and an instruction manual. [4] This test is an easy way to see if you require a further test to confirm an infection.

types of covid tests

  • How to interpret antigen and PCR test reports? 

An antigen test reveals whether your sample was positive for antigens to SARS-CoV-2. If this test is positive, it shows that you have a current infection. In such cases, self-isolate and follow quarantine yourself. However, false positives do occur. This shows the presence of the virus even though it is not actually present. This risk is higher when you have limited potential contact with the virus. Your doctor can advise you in such cases. False negatives may also occur in cases when you are tested to soon or too late after contacting the infection.

In case of a PCR test, a positive means that there is a presence of infection and that you are currently infected with COVID-19. If the RT-PCR report gives a positive result and you experience mild symptoms, a home quarantine is ideal. However, a negative result does not infer that you are not infected. It could be possible that there was less viral presence in your body. If the symptoms continue to persist, it is better to repeat the RT-PCR test. Though it is quite possible to get false negatives, a swab test PCR helps to diagnose if the person has been infected by COVID-19 or not. [1,3,5,6,7]

  • What is the difference between antigen and RT-PCR test? 

The difference between RT-PCR and antigen test is the time taken to obtain the results and the sensitivity of the test. While the results of rapid antigen test may be available within 15 to 30 minutes, it may take 24 hours to get the RT-PCR test reports. A positive antigen test result might not need re-confirmation but a negative test with persistent symptoms does need to be re-confirmed with RT-PCR test. Thus, this test is referred as the gold standard for diagnosing COVID-19 infection because of its accuracy and reliability. [1,3,8]

When do you need to get tested for COVID-19? 

You need to get tested if you have persistent COVID-19 symptoms. Also, if you have come in close contact with an infected person or been to any crowded places and social gatherings, it is better to do the test. [7]

Additional Read: Your Comprehensive Guide to the COVID-19 Virus 

When you experience symptoms, choose wisely between the above COVID-19 test types. Be proactive and take the necessary precautions. Bajaj Finserv Health is an all-in-one online platform that allows you to avail healthcare facilities related to COVID-19 with ease. Here, you can do self-assessment online, book your vaccination slot, and book COVID-19 tests without any delay.

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