Healthy Living

What is involved in a COVID-19 Test?

Have you ever heard the notion that the signs and symptoms of COVID-19 can be confusing? 

Let us take for example having a runny nose. We all know that allergic rhinitis (a reaction to a certain allergen – like pollen, or the perfume of your seatmate) can cause colorless fluid to flow excessively. On top of that, coronavirus can also present like flu. With that, the people have been wanting to get tested to verify if their manifestations are due to COVID-19 or not.

Different COVID-19 Tests

Real-Time – Polymerase Chain Reaction

The most familiar type of test to identify if you have the infection is the RT-PCR test. For laymen, this is what they call swabbing. This type of testing can be done even if you are not in a hospital. This can even be availed in a drive-thru service in states like Virginia, Texas, Massachusetts and New York wherein we have almost 214,000 confirmed cases, the highest record here in the United States.

The process included in this type of testing would be:

  1. Identification of manifestations. This includes individuals who are experiencing the signs and symptoms of COVID-19 like fever, flu, coughs, the difficulty of breathing, and headache.
  2. Calling their physician to obtain an order for him to get tested. Although some testing sites would allow individuals to get diagnosed without a physician’s order, one thing that the health care provider would assess is the presence of symptoms. If you do not have manifestations, you would then be denied to get tested.
  3. Making an appointment. This will help avoid long waiting times and secure immediate processing of your procedure.
  4. Prepare to follow the instructions carefully. Bring the necessary documents such as proofs of doctor's order, appointment scheduling, insurance, and identification cards. Make sure that you read all the signage for directions.
  5. The sequence of steps in different tents. The first tent is set for verification purposes. The next one is for swabbing. 

Swabbing is a procedure that uses highly specialized nasopharyngeal swabs made of synthetic fiber. You will be asked to position your head properly, tilting backward, so that they can reach the nose down to your upper throat. Most of those who have tried this claim that this procedure is painful.

The specimen will then be packed in a sterile container and forwarded to a medical laboratory, which could be in another tent or in another location. The swab will be examined by the RT-PCR machine, analyzed through a fluorescent probe, and yield results.

Antibody Testing

Just this month, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has given a go signal to Cellex to release antibody testing kits.

This involves testing of blood samples instead of swabbing to identify the presence of coronavirus infection in a person. This can use plasma, blood serum, or the whole blood. Compared to the RT-PCR, this test does not rely on the RNA of the person. If you are familiar with pregnancy tests, you can imagine how this is being done as it also involves lines. Just that these lines indicate the presence of immunoglobulins M or G or both. These are proteins in the immune system which serve as an antibody. It links to SARS-CoV-2 antibodies.

Which is Better?

Just like everything else, these tests have their pros and cons. Both of them have yielded good chances of identifying the virus (CI: 88.06-97.26% and 92.26-97.78% at 95% in positive and negative translations respectively). 

They can both give false positive or false negative results depending on the timing of the testing, the handling of the specimen, and the interpretation of the results.  A second or even third confirmatory test can sometimes be necessary.  

Nonetheless, getting any of the tests will help us get ahead in combating this pandemic one way or another.