Coronavirus is a common virus that causes nose, sinuses, or upper throat infections. Most Coronaviruses are not dangerous, and a new coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, was identified in China by the World Health Organization in early 2020.
The epidemic quickly spread around the world. It is spread similarly to other Coronaviruses, mainly through person-to-person contact. The infections range from mild to fatal.
People suspected of COVID-19 need to know quickly if they are infected to self-isolate, receive treatment, and notify close contacts. Infection with COVID- 19 is confirmed by a lab test called RT-PCR, which uses specialized equipment and often takes at least 24 hours to produce a result. Rapid tests are another type of test that can be used to identify COVID-19, and it often provides results within minutes and does not need to be lab-tested by a specialist.
What is a rapid test for diagnosing COVID-19?
There are rapid COVID-19 tests that can provide results within 15 minutes of submitting the samples and do not require laboratory analysis. Antigen tests are usually used for these tests. While rapid tests can give quick results, they are not as accurate as PCR tests performed in the lab. This COVID- 19 rapid test detects specific proteins in the virus by using a long nasal swab to obtain a fluid sample.
The positive result of the antigen test is considered accurate when the instructions are followed carefully, but there is a greater chance of a false-negative result, which means that it is possible to be infected with the virus but to have a negative outcome. Your doctor may recommend a PCR test to confirm a negative antigen test result depending on the situation.
How do COVID-19 rapid tests work?
Two types of COVID-19 rapid tests detect the coronavirus. One is an accelerated and smaller version of PCR testing. It is also molecular-based, so it searches for the virus’s genetic material in the mucus and infected cells in the patient’s sample. The sample is taken by inserting a cotton ball through the nose or running it along the inside of the cheek. The samples are then added to a tube of fluid, and this is what they test in the lab.
The other style of rapid test looks for antigens, which are proteins on the virus’s surface. Mucus and cells are collected similarly to PCR tests, but the results of these tests may not need to be evaluated in a laboratory. These tests often come in a flat plastic card containing a test strip. Test strips react with the Coronavirus antigens present in the patient’s mucus sample, and the color of the strip changes if the patient is positive.
What does it take to perform a rapid test?
Rapid testing requires samples containing the virus, such as nasopharyngeal surface cells or sputum/saliva. Viruses and other pathogens can also be detected in stool, urine, or blood. To present with respiratory illnesses such as COVID-19, most tests currently available or in development use samples from a person’s nose (using nasopharyngeal or anterior nasal swabs) or from the mouth (using anterior nasal swabs). Saliva collection cups are used to facilitate testing for both healthcare professionals and patients.
What are the advantages of rapid tests?
- Since they are portable, they can be used wherever the patient is (at the point of care).
- They are easy to make, with minimal additional equipment or complicated preparation steps.
- They are less expensive than normal lab tests.
- No need for a specialized operator or setup.
- They deliver quick results.
Many airports, arenas, parks, and other areas with high public traffic offer rapid COVID-19 tests to detect positive cases. Rapid tests don’t detect all cases of COVID-19, but they can detect at least a few cases that would otherwise have gone unnoticed.
Are COVID-19 rapid tests reliable?
To some extent, you sacrifice precision for speed. By their very nature, rapid tests are not very sensitive as they require a more significant amount of virus present to be positive. They can be helpful in rapidly detecting symptomatic individuals at the onset of infection. They can also help quickly screen a large group of individuals during an outbreak in a resource-constrained environment.
A person who tests positive with this type of test should be treated as infected with COVID-19, but if negative, the test is less reliable and may need to be confirmed with a more sensitive molecular test.
Molecular-style rapid tests can be reliable if a quality sample is used and performed by adequately trained individuals who perform the test as the manufacturer intends. They can detect the coronavirus’s genetic material with a sophisticated setup even when only a tiny amount is in the mucus sample.
If I took a quick test for COVID-19, what do the results mean?
If you have symptoms of COVID-19 and a rapid test indicates that you are positive, then you are likely to have coronavirus. Quarantine yourself and seek medical attention right away. However, if you have symptoms of COVID-19 and a rapid test result is negative, you should still contact your doctor as you may need to have a PCR test. Don’t fall victim to a false sense of security with a false negative COVID-19 rapid test result.
Probability of a rapid test giving a false negative.
Rapid home tests are antigen tests that use a different mechanism to detect infection. These tests can be done right at your home using a kit that looks like a home pregnancy test and provides results in 10- 15 minutes. Antigen tests are still reasonably accurate, especially when a person has symptoms and a very high viral load.
However, they may be less accurate when a person has a lower viral load, such as those without symptoms. This could lead to false-negative test results. You can have a false-negative test result if, for example, you take the test too soon after exposure to someone with COVID-19 or if you take the test while you have no symptoms.
How To perform a COVID-19 test Successfully At Home?
The instructions provided by the manufacturer must be followed carefully. Read the instructions and make sure you understand them before opening the test kit. Make sure you wash your hands before getting started.
Follow the instructions in the kit again to ensure you don’t get a false negative test if you don’t clean your nostrils properly. You may feel uncomfortable swabbing deep into the nose or the nose of a loved one, but the swab is relatively quick, and doing it correctly will increase the likelihood of an accurate test.