What are the difference between PCR and antigen test

When testing for COVID-19, there are some clear evidence as to which test you should get and some not-so-clear reasons.

Today, there are two recognized categories of testing which health care providers recommend to patients who would like to have a Coronavirus test carried out on them; the PCR test and the antigen test.

PCR test

If you are looking to check for coronavirus in an infected person then this test is the answer. Health care providers carry this out by searching for pieces of the virus in a patient’s sample of saliva or mucus. The test will tell if a person is infected on the day of the test.

How it works: By using a technology called Polymerase Chain Reaction, the medical practitioner carries out this test by using a sample of mucus typically taken from a patient’s nose or throat to look for the genetic material of the coronavirus. If the virus is detectable then the person is actively infected.

Antigen Test

An antigen test checks if your immune system has responded to coronavirus. Unlike the PCR test which requires testing mucus or spit, the Antigen test requires testing your blood.

How it works:

Since your body generates antibodies in response to an infectious agent, this test looks for antibodies to the coronavirus in your blood.

Differences between the PCR Test and Antigen Test

Even though the PCR Test and Antigen Test seek to achieve almost the same thing, they are both completely different.

The only similarity between both tests is that they all require a swap from the back of the nose or throat and they cannot determine if you are contagious if positive

Below are the differences between the PCR Test and Antigen Test

  1. While the PCR test is carried out to test if someone is infected with the coronavirus, the Antigen test checks if your immune system has responded to coronavirus.
  2. The PCR test requires testing mucus or spit while the Antibody test requires testing your blood.
  3. For a PCR test, a sample is sent to a lab to convert the virus RNA to DNA while the Antibody test works by mixing the sample with a solution that unleashes specific viral proteins.
  1. PCR test takes hours and may require sophisticated equipment and technicians while the Antigen test could be carried out on just a paper strip which like a pregnancy test would reflect as a band on the slip.
  2. The PCR test takes longer to deliver (depending on the health care centre) while the Antigen test takes less time to deliver.

Please note that all test options in this article should be discussed with your health care provider before you make up your mind on which you would like to carry out.

To order your PCR test kits or Antibody test kit, please click on the link below.