New COVID-19 diagnostic test launched: Faster than swab test, more accurate than rapid test

There are currently two kinds of tests commonly used for detection of the novel coronavirus disease or COVID-19: viral test via PCR (swab) test and antibody test using rapid antibody test kit. 

PCR or polymerase chain reaction test directly detects the presence of an antigen, which means the virus will be detected when a person has it. Meanwhile, rapid test looks for antibodies present during the recovery phase in response to infections, meaning the person could be previously or currently infected with the virus. 

Antigen test is said to be more accessible than swab test and more accurate than rapid antibody test.
Antigen test is said to be more accessible than swab test and more accurate than rapid antibody test.
While PCR tests yield the most accurate results, the “gold standard” of testing comes at a high cost. Rapid antibody testing is a more affordable and accessible alternative, however, problems with accuracy often render its results almost invalid.

“Accurate and timely diagnosis of infected COVID-19 patients is crucial as the disease is easily transmitted during active infection,” says AFP infectious diseases specialist Dr. Ma. Melissa Monica L. Turao-Agoncillo. 

“We are after solutions that help us intervene in a timely manner in order to systematically contain the virus,” she adds. 

The emergence of antigen testing technique is seen as a significant contributor to the improvement of testing rate in the Philippines. 

What is antigen testing?

The US Food and Drug Administration approved the first COVID-19 antigen test in May. This particular diagnostic test quickly detects fragments of proteins found on or within the virus by using swab samples collected from the nasal cavity. 

Although PCR tests have a higher sensitivity compared to the new antigen testing (the FDA said positive results from antigen tests are highly accurate because they are specific for the virus, but the chance of false negatives is high), the latter can be more easily used as point-of-care tests in urgent care centers such as hospitals and even workplaces. 

Antigen testing doesn’t require expensive equipment and trained specialists, making these tests much easier and cheaper to administer. In addition, results of antigen testing can be obtained within 15-30 minutes, according to Firstline Solutions, the pioneer distributor of this new COVID-19 diagnostic test in the Philippines. 

To know more about antigen test, email [email protected]

Topics: COVID-19 diagnostic test , PCR (swab) test , polymerase chain reaction test , antibody test , rapid test , antigen
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