What are the types of COVID Testing Available?
Testing has been a vital tool in the battle against COVID-19. Receiving a COVID test is the only way to definitively know whether or not you have contracted COVID-19. As of right now, there are two main types of tests that are readily available at testing sites across the nation: polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and antibody testing. These are the two main ways that global healthcare systems are testing their citizens for the virus.
What is PCR Testing?
Currently, the majority of COVID tests that are being administered and reported are using PCR technology. The PCR COVID testing method detects the genetic makeup of the virus, or it’s RNA. This can only be found in someone who is actively infected with COVID-19. PCR COVID Testing is only used to detect the active presence of the antigen, rather than the body’s immune system response, also known as antibodies. By detecting the viral RNA, PCR COVID testing can detect the virus in the early stages. This means that this type of testing can detect the active COVID-19 virus oftentimes before symptoms or antibodies develop. This is vital in cases where an infected person does not have symptoms, and can unknowingly spread the virus to those around them. PCR COVID Testing is often administered with a nasal swab to insure an effective sample from the patient.
What is serologic testing?
While PCR COVID Testing detects the genetic information from an active virus, serologic testing detects the development of antibodies from a patient. The development of antibodies in a patient means that the individual has already been infected with COVID-19, and their immune system has responded with antibodies to fight off the virus. In COVID patients, these antibodies can develop anytime between one to two weeks after infection, depending on the severity of the case. For more information on which test to receive and when, visit the CDC website.
It is not yet clear if there is an immunity period for patients that have been exposed and have developed antibodies from the COVID-19 virus. We can look at similar SARS outbreaks, such as the one in 2003, where patients kept antibodies in their blood for years after recovery. On the other hand, there have been a few reported cases of double COVID-19 infection, where individuals did not develop immunity at all.
Where can I receive a PCR COVID Test?
PCR COVID Testing is available at the majority of testing sites across the United States, as it is the primary testing method used to detect the active COVID virus. If you believe you have been infected, it is vital to receive fast test results, and quarantine to avoid spreading the virus to others.