Q: What are the different types of coronavirus tests?

A: There are three broad categories of coronavirus tests in the U.S. Two diagnose whether you have an active infection, and a third indicates if you previously had the virus.

Here’s how they work:

Genetic tests

Most tests look for bits of the virus’s genetic material and require a nasal swab that is taken by a health professional and then sent to a lab. This is considered the most accurate way to diagnose an infection, but it’s not perfect. The swab has to get a good enough sample so any virus can be detected.

These tests usually take hours to process at the lab so you likely won’t get results back for at least a day, though a handful of rapid tests take about 15 minutes on site. Other genetic tests use saliva, instead of a swab.

Antigen tests

A newer type of test looks for proteins found on the surface of the coronavirus, rather than the virus itself. These antigen tests are just hitting the market, and experts hope they’ll help expand testing and speed up results.

Antigen tests aren’t as accurate as genetic tests, but they are cheaper, faster and require less specialized laboratory equipment. They still require a nasal swab by a health professional.

A recently approved test from Abbott Laboratories takes 15 minutes and can be performed at schools, offices and other locations.

Antibody tests

Antibody tests look for proteins that the body makes to fight off infections in a patient’s blood sample. Antibodies are a sign that a person previously had COVID-19.

Scientists don’t yet know if antibodies protect people from another infection or how long that protection might last. So antibody tests are mostly useful for researchers measuring what portion of the population was infected.

You must be logged in to react.
Click any reaction to login.
0
0
0
0
0

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Transparency. Your full name is required.
Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article. And receive photos, videos of what you see.
Don’t be a troll. Don’t be a troll. Don’t post inflammatory or off-topic messages, or personal attacks.

Thank you for reading!

Please log in, or sign up for a new account and purchase a subscription to read or post comments.

To subscribe, click here. Already a subscriber? Click here.