Know the Difference between Rapid Antigen, PCR Swab, and Rapid Test for Covid-19 Detection

Early detection of the COVID-19 virus or Corona virus is very important to do at times like this. With early detection, we can avoid and at the same time break the chain of spreading the COVID-19 virus to those around us. Currently, PCR swabs and rapid tests are the types of tests that are commonly performed to detect whether a person is infected with the COVID-19 virus or not. However, some time ago the WHO ( World Health Organization ) approved a rapid antigen as a test that can also be used to detect the COVID-19 virus. In the end, people are confused about the differences between PCR swabs , rapid tests and rapid antigens. To answer this, let's look at the differences and definitions of the three!

PCR Swabs

A swab is a cotton swab that is rubbed into the nasopharynx or oropharynx to obtain mucus to be used as a sample.

Meanwhile, PCR ( Polymerase Chain Reaction ) is a type of examination to detect the genetic pattern (DNA or RNA) of a cell, germ, or virus, including the COVID-19 virus. Until now, the PCR test is the test most recommended by WHO to diagnose the COVID-19 virus.

Although the results of this test take several days, the PCR test has a high degree of accuracy. PCR swab to find out that a person's nasopharynx or oropharynx contains the Covid 19 virus.

Rapid Test

Rapid antibody test is a test method using a cartridge with blood material from the veins at our fingertips as a sample. The rapid antibody test functions to detect antibodies in the body when infected with a virus. As the name implies, the results of this rapid test can be immediately known in a short period of time, which generally only takes about 15 minutes. ANTIBODY is a special immunity that is formed and detected in the blood due to the entry of microorganisms (viruses, bacteria) known as Immunoglobulins (Ig).

There are 2 Ig, namely Ig M and Ig G. What's the difference? IgM is an Ig that is formed as an initial response to microorganisms. Over time, this Ig M will decrease and be replaced by Ig G, which is advanced Ig which will last several months and if given an Ig G booster injection, it will last for years.

Rapid Antigens

ANTIGEN is part of the body of the germ/virus.

Rapid Antigen Swab test means examination of a nasal swab to look for parts of the body or more specifically germ/virus proteins.

Rapid Antigen will be positive if body material is caught from any Corona virus and is not specific for Covid-19, a positive result requires a confirmation PCR test to confirm

To detect the Covid-19 virus, a rapid antigen test is more appropriate than a rapid antibody test because rapid antibodies only detect the body's reaction to the entry of the virus.

Even so, this rapid antigen test still cannot beat the accuracy of the PCR test.

Difference between PCR swab, Rapid Test, Rapid Antigen

After knowing the definitions of the three test methods, here are some differences between PCR swabs , rapid tests , and rapid antigens:

  1. Examination time

PCR swab requires a longer time (one to several days) compared to rapid antibody or rapid antigen which only takes minutes.

  1. Level of accuracy

The sensitivity and specificity of the PCR swab are high, while the rapid antigen has a MODERATE sensitivity and high specificity. Rapid antibodies cannot detect the virus but detect antibodies that arise due to the entry of the virus into the body.

  1. The sample used

The sample used for PCR swab and rapid antigen is mucus in the nasopharynx or oropharynx. As for the rapid antibody test , a blood sample is taken from the vein at the tip of our finger.

That is the definition and difference between PCR swab , rapid antibody test and rapid antigen. Immediately detect the COVID-19 virus early if you feel you are experiencing symptoms or if you think you have been in contact with someone who is indicated to be positively infected with the COVID-19 virus. Proper and accurate handling of the COVID-19 virus can save your life and those around you. #LiveExcellently

Article reviewed by dr. Agus Sundoko, Sp.PK (EMC Tangerang Clinical Pathology Specialist).

To find out the Covid-19 Examination at the EMC Sentul & Tangerang Hospital, click the following link:

Also read: PCR Swab & Rapid test: What's the Difference and What's the Procedure?