PCR Test Vs. Rapid Antigen Test, what are the difference? [Infographic]

PCR Test Vs. Rapid Antigen Test, what are the difference featured image

Written by Adonis Hakk

February 9, 2021

Testing for COVID-19 is essential in the international effort to tackle the pandemic. But what are the different types  of tests available and which one should you get?

Many are aware of the various COVID tests in various settings – standard practices that include scanning people for temperature using thermal scanners and asking fundamental questions about the pandemic. All of which are efforts in mitigating risks and preventing the virus’ further spread.

Today, people heavily rely on COVID-19 testing to safely resume working, travel and live everyday life. Everyone has perhaps heard about such tests as an important way to prevent the virus’s spread and save lives by identifying infected people who may need immediate care.

You can choose to get tested by considering at home PCR test or order a covid home test kit for those experiencing symptoms of the coronavirus. It eliminates the need to go to a doctor’s office, clinic, or hospital, reducing the chances of contracting the virus.

PCR Test Vs. Rapid Antigen Test, what are the difference-02

However, there are different COVID-19 tests, and one may question which test is right for them.

There are two different kinds of tests available for identifying individuals carrying the virus: a diagnostic test and an antibody test.

The former can show if an individual has an active coronavirus infection and should immediately quarantine or isolate from others. On the other hand, the latter involves checking the blood for antibodies by pricking the finger or drawing blood from the arm to determine whether an individual had a past infection that causes COVID-19.

People should note that it is not useful for diagnosing people with the virus. Antibody tests can provide quick results generally within a few minutes after taking the blood from the finger. Some tests take 1-3 days if blood is drawn for testing.

There are currently two diagnostic tests – molecular tests, such as PT-PCR tests and antigen tests, also known as rapid tests.

PCR Tests

The reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction, best known as the RT-PCR test, detects the virus’s genetic material. It is considered the most sensitive and the “gold standard” for detecting an active infection as it can deliver the most accurate results. In truth, it is highly accurate that repeating tests is highly unlikely. Individuals can take the test should they feel like they contracted the virus or a doctor advised them to take one.

In some cases, getting tested is necessary for employers and employees before returning to workplaces or visiting client sites to prove that you are completely safe from infection. People who want to take the test can go to a clinic, hospital or opt for home PCR tests. Turnaround time generally takes 2-3 days, but results can be in less than 24 hours.

Many companies have developed covid home test kits to make screening more convenient and available for people who want to stay safe and vigilant, which are as good as detecting the virus’s presence in on-site tests.

Moreover, home testing kits UK are now widely available for individuals and organizations. It is essential to remember only to get covid 19 home testing kit from reputable providers to ensure safety and accurate results.   

How does a COVID-19 PCR test work?

  1. PCR tests use a nasopharyngeal swab to collect respiratory material found in the nose. The swab goes deep into the nose to the back of the throat. After collection, the swab is then sent to a laboratory sealed inside a tube.
  2. A laboratory technologist is responsible for performing a process called extraction after receiving the sample. The process called extraction is the isolation of genetic material from the sample, including genetic material from any virus if there are any present.
  3. The last PCR step would involve using special chemicals and a PCR machine called a thermal cycler which causes a reaction to occur, making millions of copies of a small portion of the virus’s genetic material. If the virus is present in the sample, one of the chemicals will produce a fluorescent light which means a signal detected by the PCR machine. Special software will interpret the signal as a positive result.

You can get tested at one of the following locations:

Antigen Test or Rapid Antigen Test

The antigen test is more known as a “rapid test” because of how quickly its turnaround time is compared to the PCR test. It is less expensive, and getting the results typically takes 20-30 minutes, making it a high demand as it is a preferable option for testing large numbers of people. This test detects specific protein fragments of the coronavirus. Results from the tests are usually highly accurate: however, false positives may happen.

While people can know the results immediately, they may not always be as accurate. In some instances, many might receive negative results after having a rapid test and still exhibit symptoms of the virus. As such, it is best to take a molecular test in case an active COVID-19 infection is missed.

How does a COVID-19 Rapid test work?

Like the PCR test, antigen tests use a nasal or nasopharyngeal swab – the health care provider will swab the nose for testing. However, unlike molecular tests, the results can immediately be known in less than an hour. It is typically analyzed at a clinic or doctor’s office where the sample was collected.

It is important for people, especially employees who frequently come in contact with others, to get tested to ensure safety and business continuity. The best way to get a COVID-19 test by contacting health care providers, or you can contact Harley Medic Global, trusted for their expert COVID-19 testing and medical services.

You can email them at info@harleymedic.co.uk or directly call them through their mobile number 0330 390 3666.

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