Covid Tests: PCR Covid Test vs Antigen (Rapid) Covid Test

Covid testing has been an ongoing topic of conversation since March 2020. Although most people know about Covid tests, some people are not aware that there is more than one type of test. Below is an overview of Covid testing options, as well as how each of these options works.

Types of Covid Tests

Two primary types of tests are available to determine whether a patient has an active case of Covid-19: the PCR Covid test and the antigen Covid test. Both of these tests are diagnostic tests, which means that they indicate whether the patient has an active Covid-19 infection. In addition, both tests usually involve a nasal or nasopharyngeal swab. Neither of these tests can determine whether the patient is currently contagious.

PCR Covid Test

The PCR Covid test, which may also be called a molecular test, looks for a specific genetic material known as RNA. After the sample has been collected on the swab, it will be sent to a lab. The lab uses specific procedures of heating and cooling to convert the RNA to DNA, which is then replicated millions of times. This DNA can be used to identify Covid-19. Processing a PCR Covid test requires the use of advanced lab equipment and may take hours to complete. However, it is the most accurate testing method available and can detect Covid-19 with nearly 100 percent accuracy when virus is present in the patient's sample.

Antigen Covid Test

The antigen Covid test, which may also be referred to as the "rapid Covid test," is not as accurate as the PCR test. However, it provides results much faster. To perform this test, the technician simply mixes the sample with a special solution that releases proteins from the virus. The resulting substance is then applied to a paper that contains an antibody strip that will bind to any viral proteins that may be present. If viral proteins are detected, the antibody strip will be activated.

Antigen Covid tests can be performed without the help of lab equipment, and the results may be available in as little as 30 minutes. However, false negatives are more common with this type of test.

Pros and Cons of Different Covid-19 Tests

Pros of the PCR Covid test include:

  • High level of accuracy
  • Minimally invasive

Cons of the PCR Covid test include:

  • Expensive lab equipment required
  • Must be performed by a trained technician
  • Takes a long time to get results

Pros of the Antigen Covid test include:

  • Quick results
  • Minimally invasive
  • No lab equipment required

Cons of the Antigen Covid test include:

  • Not as accurate as PCR tests

A Note About Antibody Tests

It is important to note that antibody tests differ from both of the two testing methods listed about. While both PCR tests and antigen tests are designed to determine if the patient has an active Covid infection, the antibody test cannot be used to diagnose an active infection. Instead of looking for evidence of the virus itself, antibody tests look for evidence of the immune system's response to the virus. The antibodies detected by this test may not be produced immediately after the patient becomes infected, and they may remain in the patient's body long after the infection has resolved. In addition, it is possible to have a positive antibody test without having ever had Covid. It is also possible to have a negative antibody test during or after a Covid-19 infection.

Purchasing Testing Materials and Equipment

If your facility offers Covid-19 testing, you want your tests to be as accurate and convenient for patients as possible. To ensure the quality of your Covid-19 testing operation, you need to purchase the right equipment and materials. MedSupply is proud to offer both PCR and Rapid Test Health Canada approved options to customers.

MedSupply offers GeneCount COVID-19 RT-qPCR Testing Solutions. Both portable and lab-based options are available to meet the needs of any client. When you purchase PCR testing products from MedSupply, any test kit or equipment set you purchase will include all of the materials needed to carry out testing procedures. GeneCount products can not only be used to provide diagnostic testing for patients, but they can also be used to test wastewater, surfaces and air to detect Covid-19 in virtually any environment. Results can be available in as little as two hours, offering an advantage over many other testing systems.

MedSupply also offers Covid‑19 (SARS‑CoV‑2)* rapid antigen testing using the BD Veritor System. This testing system detects the SARS‑CoV‑2 virus' nucleoproteins in a point-of-care setting, providing results in as little as 15 minutes. This testing system does not require the use of a lab or highly trained technicians. In fact, the system operates at the push of a button, allowing any healthcare professionals to get results quickly and with confidence.

Abbott Panbio and Abbott ID NOW are two other great rapid testing options that are Health Canada approved. These devices are ideal for large-scale testing designed to slow the spread of Covid-19.

Contact MedSupply to learn more about your available Covid-19 testing options.


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