When it comes to COVID-19 testing, the choice of test is usually determined between accuracy and speed. An antigen test can provide results quickly, but a PCR test is considered the gold standard for COVID-19 testing. PCR testing can provide a more definitive answer as to whether an individual has the virus in their body. Danner Laboratory provides Covid-19 PCR tests through healthcare providers for travelers, individuals and workplaces.
What is a PCR test?
PCR means polymerase chain reaction. It’s a test to detect genetic material from a specific organism, such as a virus. The test detects the presence of a virus if you have the virus at the time of the test. The test could also detect fragments of the virus even after you are no longer infected.
What is a COVID-19 PCR test?
A PCR test for COVID-19 is a molecular test that analyzes your upper respiratory specimen, looking for genetic material (ribonucleic acid or RNA) of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Scientists use the PCR technology to amplify small amounts of RNA from specimens into deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), which is replicated until SARS-CoV-2 is detectable if present. The PCR test has been the gold standard test for diagnosing COVID-19 since authorized for use in February 2020. It’s accurate and reliable.
What’s the difference between the PCR and antigen tests for COVID-19?
Polymerase chain reaction (PCR). This tests for the presence of the actual virus’s genetic material or its fragments as it breaks down. PCR is the most reliable and accurate test for detecting active infection. PCR tests typically take hours to perform in a lab, but some are faster.
Antigen test: This detects bits of proteins on the surface of the virus called antigens. Antigen tests typically take only 15 to 30 minutes. Rapid antigen tests are most accurate when used within a few days of the start of your symptoms, which is when the largest amount of virus is present in your body. They can be performed at home by the patient if necessary.
Which test is more accurate?
PCR testing is the most accurate for detecting COVID-19. The antigen test is typically faster but is less sensitive than the PCR test. Because the antigen test is not as accurate as PCR, if an antigen test is negative, your healthcare provider could request a PCR test to confirm the negative antigen test result.