Different Types of COVID-19 Tests: Antigen vs. Antibody vs. Molecular

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve heard about the importance of testing and how it can help slow the spread of the virus.

From antigen to molecular to antibody, there are different types of COVID-19 tests out there, which can potentially cause some confusion. Which test – if any – is necessary for you, especially considering the ongoing vaccine rollout?

Breaking Down the Different Types of COVID-19 Tests

There are two main categories of COVID-19 tests:

  • Viral: This test tells you if you’re currently infected with COVID-19. There are two types of viral tests: antigen and molecular.
  • Antibody: This test tells you if you’ve had COVID-19 in the past and subsequently developed antibodies. An antibody test is a helpful tool for those who experienced COVID symptoms but tested negative on a viral test. A positive test potentially means you have protection from being infected with the virus again, but the length of that protection is unknown.

A viral test is the only test used to diagnose an active case of COVID-19. An antibody test will not detect an active virus.

It’s recommended that you wait at least 10 days after a potential exposure to COVID-19 to take an antibody test in order to give your body time to produce enough antibodies.

What Are the Different Types of Tests to Diagnose COVID-19: Antigen vs. Molecular

When it comes to determining if you have an active COVID-19 infection, there are two different types of tests: antigen and molecular.

  • Antigen: This test detects specific proteins found on the surface of the novel coronavirus, which causes COVID-19. Because this test is only looking for matter on the surface of the virus, it can be done much faster, which is why Rapid Tests, which can produce results in about 30 minutes, are antigen tests.
  • Molecular: This test determines if you have the virus by detecting ribonucleic acid, SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19. Because they specifically identify the RNA that causes COVID-19, molecular tests are more accurate but take longer to produce results.

Antigen tests are about 80% accurate in people who exhibit symptoms of COVID-19, and about half as accurate for those infected individuals who are asymptomatic, according to the Center for Disease Control & Prevention. Still, if you have COVID-19 symptoms, there’s a good chance the Rapid Test can detect the virus. It’s important to take this test as soon as you first develop symptoms.

Do I Need a COVID-19 Test if I’ve Been Vaccinated?

The CDC recommends fully vaccinated people take a COVID-19 test only if they’re exhibiting symptoms associated with the virus. While it’s rare (there’s a 0.007% chance, according to the CDC), vaccinated people can still contract and spread COVID-19.

Schedule a COVID-19 Test Today

If you’re not vaccinated and have symptoms of COVID-19 or if you have been exposed to someone who has tested positive, it’s important to get tested.

For those living in New York, BioReference offers asymptomatic Rapid Testing with results delivered in about 30 minutes.

Source: Centers For Disease Control and Prevention