As the coronavirus barged into our lives in 2020, testing became a very important part of controlling the spread of COVID-19. The rapid testing, the better it is. Apart from standard testing that is PCR tests, many other alternatives for testing are in development.
One of these alternatives is the Antigen test. An antigen test detects the antigen which confirms that you have the bacterium in your gut which can cause stomach ulcers and duodenal. It is often called a rapid test which can be done in clinics or hospitals.
The results are also almost immediate, in about 15 minutes.
Do you want to know more about what the antigen test is and how does it work? Read on to know more about it!
What is an antigen test?
Before we get to what is the antigen test, you should be aware of what an antigen is! It is a substance that is recognized by the immune system and responds by producing proteins which are called antibodies that particularly perceive that antigen.
Now, an antigen test is a popularly known rapid diagnostic test that detects if you’ve been infected with the coronavirus.
How does it work?
Antigen looks for proteins or antigens in the sample taken with the help of a swab from your nose or throat. Antigens are faster than other testing alternatives but they are more likely to give you false results.
Antigen test works by mixing the sample with a solution that releases certain viral proteins. This mixture is applied to a paper strip that contains an antibody optimised to compel these proteins. Just like a home pregnancy test, the results are indicated on the paper strip.
What are the pros?
Antigen test is beneficial for fast and cheap testing. They do not require expensive equipment and chemicals that are required to take out results. They also do not require the help of any trains specialist, so they can be conducted cheaply.
Antigen test may also help in limiting the spread as they reflect the results in minutes which means the individual can be isolated immediately. The tests are also easy to manufacture in bulk. In short, the tests may be hope for curbing the pandemic.
Are antigen tests accurate?
Unfortunately, antigen tests are not always correct. However, If the testing instructions are properly followed, the antigen tests are considered accurate.
A person with a higher amount of virus in the body has a higher chance of getting an accurate result than a person with less amount of virus in the body. Regardless, there’s a higher risk of getting false results than other testing alternatives.
Who should get this test?
Antigen tests are great as they provide you results in minutes. So, if a person is having obvious signs of coronavirus, they can get an antigen test done to have an accurate result. These are most credible in case the person has a high viral load as they are less likely to discover false results than a person with a low amount of virus in the body.
How is the antigen test different from PCR and Antibody tests?
There are three different types of testing methods used to detect coronavirus: Antigen Test, PCR or RNA or molecular test and Antibody test or serology. Here’s the difference between these three types:
PCR Tests measure the genetic substance from a virus that is in your body. The sample is collected from your nose air throat with a swab. It can be helpful to determine a person having an active infection and is contagious to others.
PCR tests can take hours to reflect results as they are administered by lab equipment and technicians but they give almost 100℅ credible results. PCR test is considered as the gold standard testing procedure for testing COVID-19.
A positive PCR test means that the person is infected with COVID-19 and a negative test will indicate that you didn’t have COVID-19 when you took this test. It doesn’t detect past infection but active infection.
An antibody test indicates if the person has already been exposed to infection by spotting antibodies in their blood. This test is also laboratory-based.
Antibody tests are usually used to diagnose past infections and not a current infection as the antibodies take some time to develop in the body.
It can help detect or track the infection spread and estimate the number of people who already have been infected with COVID-19 which can be an important element in evaluating herd immunity. If the results show that you have antibodies, it implies that you were infected with COVID-19.
PCR or RNA tests are highly sensitive and accurate, meaning they can show positive results even if the person is no longer sick or having symptoms. On the other hand, antigen tests are quick and cheap.
However, they are more inaccurate than PCR tests in detecting novel coronaviruses. Antibody tests on the other hand are tests that can detect previous infections by looking for antibodies in the body.
They aren’t so accurate for detecting current infections but they are valuable in assessing herd immunity. Both PCR and Antigen tests are done by taking samples from the nose or throat with a swab. Antibody tests require blood samples for testing.
Also read: Is Covid Vaccine Safe During Pregnancy?
Which is the right test for you?
Now that you know the difference between the three, you might be able to understand their benefits and drawbacks.
However, the right test is dependent on the goal. There might be different goals you might be undergoing the testing.
It may be done for detecting active infection for which PCR tests may be reliable, identifying asymptomatic people with the virus for which antigen tests may be quick and useful. It may be also used for discerning whether a person had COVID-19 before for which antibody test is helpful.
Your doctor might be able to help you by suggesting you the right type of test.
This was all about antigen test meaning and the difference between antigen test, PCR test and antibody test. Hope you might be able to get the most out of this information.
Be safe, wear the mask! 🙂