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Testing with Coronavirus

Oct 26, 2020

People in the media are consistently talking about testing, with so many different types of testing available and with so many claims being made it can be difficult to make sense of it all. This article will look at the different methods used in testing for COVID-19 and how they work to help detect the virus. In essence there are two different testing objectives, one is to test for an active infection, this will tell you if you currently have the coronavirus. The second is to test for previous exposure to and infection with the virus, this test will check for presence of antibodies which will indicate if you have had been infected by the virus.

 

PCR Testing

PCR which is short for Polymerase Chain Reaction is a method by which a sample is processed in order to determine the outcome. This method allows amplification of the genetic material of the virus to levels which can be detected.  In this case it is used to detect an active coronavirus infection in a patient. This test involves taking a swab sample of the nose and throat. The swab is similar to cotton wool at the end of a plastic stick, the cotton wool is absorbent and will absorb some of the saliva in order to test. This type of test can be done at home in terms of sample collection but then the sample will have to be sent off to be processed.

Key points of a PCR test

  • Uses saliva samples from nose and throat
  • Only checks for an ACTIVE infection, not for past infections
  • Sample are sent back to the lab so that they can be analysed
  • Take a few days to get the result

Getting a test is easy, you can either go to a local testing centre or order a kit online or via the phone to be delivered at your home. The key thing with the PCR test is that you need to get the test done within the first 8 days of showing symptoms. If ordering online or over the phone through the government website make sure you order before 3pm to get it the next day.

 

 

Antibody Test

This type of testing is to determine if the person being tested had been infected with the virus in the past. In terms of resistance it is difficult to say whether previous infection with coronavirus will automatically mean you have the antibodies to fight off a second infection. The antibody test is conducted with a blood sample and is usually done as a point of care test. This means that the test and result are given instantly. Your result will tell you if you have the anti-bodies specific to the coronavirus, if so, this would be a positive result.

  • Tests for previous infection with the virus
  • Results given instantly – similar to a pregnancy test except this uses a blood sample from a finger prick
  • Cannot detect if you have a current infection
  • It is not known if having antibodies prevents a re-infection with the virus

 

Antibody tests are not available free to everyone at the moment, they have been reserved for people working in certain fields. If you are not able to get a free test you can get one done privately.

 

As you can see there are only two main methods by which COVID-19 can be tested for, hopefully this helps to clear up any confusion you may have had. Remember to visit the government website for up to date information about how to keep yourself and others safe during this pandemic.

 

 

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