What is the difference between a PCR test and an antigen test? A question asked by many. Not surprising. Antigen and PCR are terms we have been used to for a while. Is there a difference in reliability and are all these tests equally useful?
We compare the three most important ones in this article.
The antibody test
The antibody test is carried out using a blood sample. In this way, it is checked whether your body has produced antibodies against the Coronavirus. If so, you test positive. In other words, you have been infected with the Covid-19 virus in the past.
This test relates to infections in the past. This implies that the test is not applicable to determine whether or not you are currently infected with the Covid-19 virus. Therefore, the test is mainly used to map the number of Corona infections on a macro level.
This Covid-19 test is also called the rapid test. The test uses a cotton swab that takes a smear test in the nose or throat. This Corona test is called the rapid test because you can easily view the result almost immediately. However, this rapidity has a downside. After all, antigen tests are less reliable compared to the PCR test when it comes to detecting Corona-related 'early' infections.
A negative result does not always imply you are not infected with the Covid-19 virus. Rapid tests are certainly not worthless but are rather complementary to PCR tests. For this reason, antigen tests are not recognised by many countries when validating an official travel certificate.
The PCR test is also done via the nose and throat and is very reliable because it searches for bits of genetic material related to the Coronavirus. The PCR test is very sensitive. This implies that if you test negative, you are most likely not infected with the Covid-19 virus at the time the test is performed. Therefore you do not have to be quarantined.
Moreover, this is the only Covid-19 test officially recognised as a valid Corona test in terms of validating a travel certificate. The excellent reliability of the test is an important factor.