Covid-19 Test Kits
COVID-19 tests: How they work and what they can tell you?
Covid-19 tests can help diagnose and stop the spread of the virus.
Discover the different testing options and what to do if you test positive.
What is COVID-19 exactly?
Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is an infectious disease caused by the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2). The virus (named after its crown-like shape) belongs to a family of viruses which are associated with the following respiratory illnesses:
the common cold
severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS)
Although coronavirus has been initially spread from animals to humans, the main route of transmission is through coughing, sneezing and contact with contaminated objects. Due to the uncontrolled spread on a global scale, the disease was declared a pandemic on March 11, 2020, by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Types of coronavirus tests
In general, there are two different types of Covid-19 tests:
Tests that can detect the virus directly (also called viral PCR tests)
Tests that check for your immune response (known as antibody tests)
Each type of test is performed in a different way. In both cases, the results should be interpreted by a doctor to help you understand the implications of the virus and help you plan your next steps.
Home-to-lab antibody test
This method can accurately determine the status of your infection (e.g. acute, past) even if you are asymptomatic.
How is it performed?
The test involves collecting a few droplets of blood in a microtainer (blood collection tube) and sending the sample to a lab. Viral particles are then added to the sample. If antibodies from the patient’s immune system bind the virus, the test will produce a fluorescent colour.
Advantages and disadvantage
The test shows if you:
Have active infection from day 5 of infection
Are susceptible to infection
Have already been infected and are now immune to the virus
Viral PCR tests
PCR Covid-19 tests, also known as ‘have you got it' tests, can identify an active infection by multiplying and detecting the virus’s genetic material, a process known as a polymerase chain reaction.
How does it work?
A sample is taken from the throat and nose using a sterile swab (similar to a large cotton bud). The sample is then sent to a lab for testing. The lab team confirms the presence of coronavirus by using the virus’s unique genetic blueprint from early cases in China. It may take several hours before the results become available.
Benefits and limitations
This technique has a high sensitivity for diagnosing Covid-19 infection from day 0. However, there are certain limitations related to this type of test, including:
Longer turnaround time (on average 3 days)
Inability to show if you are susceptible to infection
Inability to determine if you’ve already been infected