Understanding the Differences in PCR, Antigen Rapid Test, and Antibody Rapid Test in COVID-19 Examination

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Understanding the Differences in PCR, Antigen Rapid Test, and Antibody Rapid Test in COVID-19 Examination
Understanding the Differences in PCR, Antigen Rapid Test, and Antibody Rapid Test in COVID-19 Examination

To detect COVID-19, an examination called PCR and rapid test are needed. These two types of examinations aim to determine whether a person is infected with the Corona virus or not. However, what is the difference between the two types of examination?

If you have symptoms of COVID-19, such as fever, cough, and shortness of breath, it is recommended that you go to the hospital immediately to get tested for COVID-19.

Understanding the Differences in PCR, Antigen Rapid Test, and Antibody Rapid Test in COVID-19 Examination - Alodokter

If you need a COVID-19 check, click the link below so you can be directed to the nearest he alth facility:

  • Rapid Antibody Test
  • Antigen Swab (Rapid Test Antigen)
  • PCR

At the hospital, the doctor will perform a physical examination and trace whether you have been in contact with a COVID-19 patient in the last 2 weeks. Next, the doctor will carry out supporting examinations in the form of a rapid test and PCR to diagnose COVID-19.

About PCR Test and Rapid Test

PCR tests and rapid tests are used as a way to detect the Corona virus in the body. For those of you who don't know about PCR and rapid tests, here is a brief explanation:

Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) Test

The PCR test is a type of examination to detect the genetic pattern (DNA and RNA) of a cell, germ, or virus, including the Corona virus (SARS-CoV-2). Until now, the PCR test is the test recommended by the World He alth Organization (WHO) to diagnose COVID-19.

The accuracy of the PCR test is quite high, but it takes a long time for the results to come out, which is about 1–7 days.

The PCR test generally needs to be done on people who experience symptoms of COVID-19, such as cough, runny nose, fever, impaired sense of smell, and shortness of breath, especially if the person has a history of contact with a confirmed patient with COVID-19.

Rapid test

In addition to the PCR test, rapid tests are also often used as an initial examination or screening for COVID-19. As the name implies, rapid test results can be known immediately in a short time, usually only a few minutes or a maximum of 1 hour to wait for the results of the examination to come out.

Until now, there are two types of rapid tests that can be used to detect the presence of the Corona virus in the patient's body, namely:

Rapid test antigen

An antigen is a foreign substance or object, such as a poison, germ, or virus, that can enter the body.Some antigens can be considered harmful by the body, thus triggering the immune system to form immune substances (antibodies). This reaction is a form of the body's natural defense to prevent disease.

Coronavirus that enters the body will be detected as an antigen by the immune system. This antigen can also be detected through a rapid antigen test.

Rapid antigen test for the Corona virus is done by taking a sample of mucus from the nose or throat through a swab process. To provide more accurate results, the rapid antigen test needs to be carried out no later than 5 days after the appearance of the symptoms of COVID-19.

Several studies have shown that the Corona virus antigen rapid test has a better accuracy rate than the antibody rapid test. However, the rapid test antigen examination is considered not as accurate as the PCR test for diagnosing COVID-19.

Rapid antibody test

Antigens, including the Corona virus, that enter the body can be detected by the body's immune system. Once an antigen is detected, the immune system will produce antibodies to destroy it. The presence of antibodies to eradicate the Corona virus can be detected through a rapid antibody test.

This type of rapid test for COVID-19 is the earliest type of rapid test to appear. Unfortunately, this test has a low level of accuracy in detecting the presence of the Corona virus in the body. This is why the antibody rapid test is not suitable as an examination method for diagnosing COVID-19.

The results of the rapid antibody test for COVID-19 are read as reactive (positive) and non-reactive (negative).

Currently, rapid antigen and antibody tests are available in Indonesia. Based on the level of accuracy of the examination, the examination methods that are considered the most accurate to detect the presence of the Corona virus in the body are the rapid antigen test and the PCR test.

The Difference between PCR Test, Antigen Rapid Test, and Antibody Rapid Test

Although they are interrelated, the rapid test and PCR tests are different types of examinations. The following are some of the differences between the PCR test, rapid antigen test, and rapid antibody test to detect the Corona virus:

1. Examination time

The results of the rapid test, both antigen and antibody types, require a fairly short time, which is around 30-60 minutes. Meanwhile, the PCR test procedure takes about 1 day at the fastest.

However, due to the large number of samples that must be examined while the availability of this tool is limited, sometimes it may take up to about 1 week.

2. Accuracy level

The most accurate investigation to detect the presence of the Corona virus is the PCR test with an accuracy rate of 80–90%, while the rapid antigen test has an accuracy slightly below the PCR test.

Rapid antibody test is an examination with the lowest accuracy rate, which is only about 18%. Therefore, the diagnosis of COVID-19 can generally only be confirmed through a physical examination and PCR from a doctor. Meanwhile, the rapid test is considered not yet feasible as a method of checking for COVID-19.

3. Sample used

The PCR test and rapid antigen test use a sample of mucus from the nose or throat taken through a swab process. PCR gargle examination can also be done using saliva samples obtained by gargling using a saline solution (s alt). Salivary PCR examination by collecting salivary fluid is also being developed as an alternative to detect COVID-19.

Meanwhile, the antibody rapid test examination uses a blood sample taken from a fingertip or a blood vessel.

4. Inspection rate

The Ministry of He alth of the Republic of Indonesia has set a tariff limit for rapid tests, which is a maximum of Rp. 150,000 for antibody rapid tests and a maximum of Rp. 275,000 for rapid antigen tests.

Meanwhile, the price of PCR tests still varies, but the government has set a maximum limit for the price of PCR tests in hospitals or clinical laboratories of approximately Rp.900,000.

If you still have questions about the difference between the PCR examination and the rapid test, you can ask the doctor directly through the ALODOKTER application.

In this application, you can chat directly with a doctor or make an appointment with a doctor at the hospital if you need an in-person examination.

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