WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN RAPID ANTIGEN TESTS, MOLECULAR RT-PCR TESTS AND ANTIBODY TESTS?
✓ Rapid antigen tests detect antigens (proteins) of the virus. Results are reported faster than molecular and antibody tests, but they are less sensitive, especially in detecting asymptomatic individuals. They can only detect active infection in the early days of the disease.
✓ Molecular tests, such as real-time PCR, detect the genetic material, RNA, of the virus. They have higher sensitivity and specificity. They can detect the virus in asymptomatic individuals and can identify active infection for a longer time, compared to rapid antigen tests.
✓ Antibody tests detect antibodies produced by the immune system of the patient in response to the virus. They identify individuals who had COVID-19 in the recent past (or may have active infection with possibly reduced infectiousness now) and have developed antibodies against the virus that could offer future protection against it.