There’ s a lot of testing at the moment, but some are getting confused about what coronavirus tests are. How are the tests different? What did they do? And why are they?
There are two main tests, polymerise chain reaction (PCR) and antibody testing are the dominant ways that global healthcare systems are testing citizens for Covid-19. Both techniques have their caveats
The PCR test
The first one is the PCR based test. Its the one you can diagnose whether or not you have COVID 19. They detect the genetic information of the virus, the RNA. That’s only possible if the virus is there and someone is actively infected.
The PCR test is specific and sensitive. It can detect one virus particle just from a swab. They are very accurate when they find a virus they tell you found and you can believe it. If they don’t find the virus some of those tests just aren’t enough to rely on a negative test you still have to use your clinical suspicion. The PCR takes quite a long time running the test, it takes anywhere between 20 minutes and a few hours, this could take even longer.
PCR gives us a good indication of who is infected. They can be isolated and get in contact with people they’ve been in touch with so they can be quarantined too, just in case. That’s the true advantage of the current major diagnostic tests, you can break that transmission chain and get a clearer picture of what’s happening
The Antibody test
Antibodies are small protein produced by your body immune system. Some of these attack virus and remains in your body for months or even years afterwards continuing to provide protection. So if you have got the right proportion of antibodies in your system for fighting COVID-19 then you have probably had COVID -19 and possibly have some level of immunity. Running a test is incredibly fast you can potentially get results in a matter of seconds. The problems of this test are that many of the products on the market are not accurate enough.
An antibody test tells us what proportion of the population has been infected. It won’t tell you who is infected, because the antibodies are generated after a week or two, after which time the virus should have been cleared from the system. But it tells you who’s been infected and who should be immune to the virus.
The Antibody test will help us to understand how to control. It perhaps in the building of the future who needs to be targeted for isolation, etc. So having those sort of test can help us understand how the epidemic goes through a population. So if you test on a massive scale and amass enough data it would help to do all sort of things like helping key workers get back to work protecting more vulnerable people, managing certain groups who were born likely to spread it and eventually unable government to unlock the lockdown.