Importance of COVID-19 Testing— Knowing the Difference Can Make All the Difference
According to James J. Hensley, MLS (ASCP), CIC, System Director of Infection Prevention for Appalachian Regional Healthcare (ARH), there are three different major classes of COVID-19 tests and knowing the difference can make all the difference.
“Understanding how these COVID-19 tests differ in their ability to detect accurately SARS-CoV-2 is critical to interpreting the results and understanding why ARH recommends PCR testing,” stated Hensley.
Molecular testing, also known as PCR, is a highly accurate and sensitive test method which requires no repeat or confirmatory testing, has a very low incidence of false positive / false negative results, and is used to diagnose active coronavirus infection.
Antigen testing, also known as ‘rapid’ or ‘kit’ testing, is a moderately accurate test method that is used to diagnose active infection, however with limitations. Antigen testing requires confirmation testing via molecular methods such as PCR. Therefore, results of antigen tests are considered preliminary and not final determinations of active infection. False positive/false negative results happen at a higher rate with this method of testing and cannot always diagnose an active infection, as such antigen tests are more likely to miss an active infection compared to molecular tests.
Antibody testing, also known as a serological test, is a blood test that is used to determine whether you have been infected or exposed to coronavirus in the past. This test method cannot be used to diagnose active infections or be used to show that you do not have COVID-19.
Because of the known limitations of antigen and antibody testing and the high rate of reported false results in non-ARH facilities utilizing antigen testing, ARH only uses PCR when performing required testing as it is the best available method for ensuring the safety of our patients and staff.
“Community rates are elevated across Kentucky and with the recent Thanksgiving holiday, if you visited with family or participated in Black Friday in-store events, it is that much more important to know if you were exposed to COVID-19,” said Hensley. “Whether you have or don’t have any COVID-19 symptoms, getting tested is the most effective way to promote safety and prevent spread in our communities.”
ARH is providing free COVID-19 tests. For information on COVID-19 testing locations, go to this link: https://arhcovid19.com/#testinglocations. You can obtain a COVID-19 test whether you have or do not have any symptoms.