What are the different types of coronavirus test?
In the United States, there are three categories of coronavirus tests. Two diagnose if you have an active disease and the third indicates if the virus has passed.
Here’s a look at how they work:
Most tests look for remnants of the virus’s genetic material, and require a nasal sample that must be taken by a healthcare professional and sent to a laboratory. It is considered the most accurate way to diagnose an infection, but it is not perfect: a good enough sample must be obtained to detect any virus.
Processing these tests in a lab typically takes hours, so results could take at least a day, although a handful of rapid tests take just 15 minutes. Other genetic tests use saliva instead of the nasal swab with a swab.
A new type of test looks for the proteins found on the surface of the coronavirus, rather than the virus itself. They have just hit the market, and experts hope they will help increase the number of tests performed and accelerate results.
Antigen tests are less accurate than genetic tests, but they are cheaper, faster, and require less specialized laboratory equipment. However, a nasal swab is also needed by a healthcare professional.
A newly approved Abbott Laboratories test takes 15 minutes and can be done in schools, offices, and other locations.
Antibody tests look for proteins made by the body to fight infection in a blood sample from a patient. Antibodies are an indication that a person had Covid-19.
Scientists do not yet know if the antibodies protect against reinfection or how long that protection lasts. Therefore, these types of tests are especially useful for researchers who measure what percentage of the population has been infected.