PCR Testing is the most sensitive test that is currently available, able to detect active infection some days before the patient is infectious or symptomatic. It is the gold standard test; used around the world daily. PCR testing has a turnaround time of up to 48 hours. It is performed in machines that cycle through different temperatures. As the process of changing temperature takes some time, the process is longer than other processes such as LAMP.
NAAT testing is a term used to describe several genetic tests. We offer a rapid point of care NAAT test that is able to detect COVID-19 RNA in a quicker timeframe than the lab-based PCR process described above. These tests (which include the Abbott ID NOW process) are more recent developments than PCR. They are generally faster than PCR but are not considered to be as sensitive – but they are still more sensitive than other forms of coronavirus testing, being able to be used earlier in the disease process. NAAT tests are likely in many cases to be able to detect patients immediately before symptoms are displayed. For this reason, NAAT testing can add a significant degree of confidence if performed before flying, for example, when all aboard have had a negative NAAT test prior to departure.
Antigen Testing is generally seen as the fastest and cheapest of all lab tests for COVID-19. Unlike PCR and LAMP, the genetic material of the virus is not searched for, but rather the protein structures on a virally infected cell produced by COVID-19; usually the so-called ‘spike’ protein. Antigen tests often become positive after having had symptoms for a couple of days. Their use is particularly powerful when patients are attending communal events and a quick check needs to be performed to see if attendees are infectious with COVID-19. Furthermore, during winter months, when people often have symptoms of the common cold or flu, performing an antigen test will ascertain whether the condition is the coronavirus or not.
Antibody tests: When we get infected with COVID-19, our bodies make antibodies to fight the infection. The antibody test looks for the presence of these antibodies, which usually means that we have been infected with COVID-19 in the past. This test uses a finger-prick blood test. If you test negative for the antibodies, it does not necessarily mean that you don't have immunity to COVID, however, especially if you have been fully vaccinated.