What’s the difference between a PCR and antigen COVID-19 test? A molecular biologist explains

(Spanish language version: https://theconversation.com/pruebas-covid-de-pcr-o-antigenos-conoce-cuales-son-las-diferencias-173483)

At this point in the pandemic, you or someone you know has probably received at least one COVID-19 test. But do you know which kind of test you got and the strengths and weaknesses of these different tests?

I’m a molecular biologist, and since April 2020 I’ve been part of a team working on a National Institutes of Health-funded program called RADx that is helping innovators develop rapid tests to detect when a person is infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

Two major types of tests are used to diagnose infection with SARS-CoV-2: molecular tests – better known as PCR tests – and antigen tests. Each detects a different part of the virus, and how it works influences the test’s speed and relative accuracy. So what are the differences between these types of tests?

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  • COVID-19
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • antigen COVID-19 test
  • PCR COVID-19 test
  • COVID-19 testing

University Of Massachusetts Med Sch Worcester

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