What are the Differences between COVID-19 Tests?

During the course of the pandemic, a number of different COVID-19 tests have been developed. These make use of a variety of different testing methods, have different levels of accuracy, and will provide results within different timeframes. Tests can broadly be divided into antigen tests, which detect whether an individual is currently infected with COVID-19, and antibody tests, which detect immunity from the virus. Here is some more information about different types of coronavirus tests.

PCR Tests

At the beginning of the pandemic, the most common type of test to be employed in the UK were polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests. These tests are used to detect the presence of the coronavirus in an individual before they develop symptoms. These tests are performed by taking nasal and oral swabs, before adding these samples to a fluid in a lab.

The limitations of this test are obvious; they need to be sent to a lab to be analysed, and they can return false negatives 30% of the time. Sometimes, they can even provide false positives by detecting deactivated virus still present in the body of somebody who is immune.

Over the course of the pandemic, the PCR testing process has been refined to a point where results can be obtained more quickly and false results can be identified more easily.

Lateral Flow Tests

Like the PCR tests, lateral flow tests (LFTs) are a type of antigen test. An example of this type of test is the Healgen Antigen test. These tests have become more widely used in 2021, as they can provide results within 30 minutes, and do not need to be sent to a lab for analysis. Once again, LFTs require nasal and oral swabs to be added to a solution for virus detection.

LFTs offer a much quicker way of identifying coronavirus in those who already have symptoms. The UK Government has encouraged the population to regularly use LFTs, such as the Healgen Antigen test, regularly as a means of escaping lockdown restrictions. There is a balance to be achieved between the convenience of an LFT and their accuracy.

Antibody Testing

Antibody tests are not used to identify if an individual currently has the virus, but rather whether they have had it in the past. This is not only a useful tool in identifying how many people have been infected with coronavirus, but also whether they possess immunity to it.

Unlike PCR tests and LFTs, antibody tests often collect blood samples as a means of detecting immunity. This is due to there being a greater number of antibodies being present in an individual’s bloodstream compared to their respiratory tract.

Studies have suggested that those who have been infected with coronavirus possess antibodies for up to 7 months after their initial infection. Similar viruses to COVID-19, such as sudden acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), were shown to have produced antibodies in previously infected patients for years afterwards, suggesting that something similar could happen with COVID-19.

Alongside vaccinations, antibody testing in a wide segment of the population is a useful means of gauging whether the UK population is close to achieving herd immunity. This is a key part of the government’s figures that they are using to decide whether coronavirus restrictions can be relaxed in the UK.

These different types of test are all useful in helping to end this pandemic, as they can tell us who is currently infected, which gives us an idea of how the virus is spreading. The ability to identify antibodies is also an essential component in generating an idea of how many people are now immune to the coronavirus. The higher this number is, the closer the country gets to finally reopening.

You can purchase a Healgen test from Handstations.co.uk and have it delivered straight to your door.