What Is The Difference Between The Antibody And Antigen COVID-19 Tests?

Getting tested for COVID-19 can help prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus and keep your family and friends safe. In addition to the standard RT-PCR test, you can also get an antigen or antibody test. Their names may sound quite similar, but they test for two different things. Let’s talk about each.

COVID-19 antigen tests (aka ‘rapid’ or ‘rapid antigen’ test)

A COVID-19 antigen test is a nasal or throat swab designed to detect an active infection located on the surface of the virus. This test can be processed immediately and typically returns results within 15 minutes.

Although this test can give you answers quickly, it’s important to remember that it does have a slightly higher rate of returning false negatives than the RT-PCR test. False negatives are incorrect results where the test is negative even though the person is actually infected.

Are the rapid antigen and the RT-PCR test the same thing?

No. Although both the antigen and RT-PCR tests are generally administered as a nasal swab, these tests are not the same.

The RT-PCR test looks for specific genetic material from the virus and must be processed in a lab for your results.
The antigen test looks for specific proteins on the surface of the virus and can immediately be processed onsite.

COVID-19 antibody tests

A COVID-19 antibody test is intended to determine whether you were previously infected (whether or not you had symptoms). This test is a blood draw that must be sent to and processed by a lab. You can generally expect results within 3 days of your test.

Can a COVID-19 antibody test detect an active infection?

It is possible for an antibody test to detect an active infection if your body has started producing IgM antibodies in response to the virus when you take the test. However, this test is NOT designed or intended to detect an active infection. You should get a rapid antigen or RT-PCR test if you think you may be infected or have been exposed to the virus.

What are the benefits of the antibody test?

If you’re wondering about the benefits of getting an antibody test if it only detects an infection after you’ve had it, wonder no more.

Antibody tests are helpful because…

  • You can help health officials gather data that helps them offer better public health guidance aimed at reducing the virus spread.
  • You can help health officials better understand how the virus affects the body during and after an infection.
  • You can return to work safely knowing that you’ve already been infected.
  • You can donate convalescent plasma to patients who are very sick with COVID-19, helping them in their recovery.


At-Home COVID-19 Testing With Concierge MD

Concierge MD brings rapid antigen, antibody, or RT-PCR test to you at home for safe, fast, and convenient testing. Our nurses wear medical-grade personal protective equipment during your appointment and practice social distancing as much as possible for your safety. After your test, you will receive over-the-phone results and a consultation with our clinician with advice about next steps if your test does come back positive. Learn more about our tests or book an in-home appointment today.

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