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Home / Tips and Tricks / Any coronavirus test and how they are different: antibody, nasal swab, saliva

Any coronavirus test and how they are different: antibody, nasal swab, saliva



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How are you being tested for COVID-19?


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Visit the WHO website for the latest news and information on the coronavirus pandemic.

Coronavirus assays that are widely available may be the key to to return to normal life . In any case, that's the idea, as health authorities from cities to countries rush to test as many people as possible. Testing can help determine who is already infected and is therefore less likely to contract or spread the coronavirus. Understanding who tests positive for the COVID-19 disease can also help scientists better understand disease patterns and help officials track new outbreaks.

Different types of tests are available now, and some are under construction in the future. : the nasal swab, antibody test a saliva test and a promising method that uses DNA to diagnose you in about 40 minutes instead of hours.

Because test kits are currently so limited, testing for COVID-19 requires a doctor's referral in many places and gives priority to patients who are the most sick . As labs ramp up their production of Food and Drug Administration-approved kits for coronavirus testing, community-wide testing will begin.

We'll tell you what you need to know about the different types of coronavirus testing, based on guidelines from the FDA and centers for disease control and prevention. Access to tests will vary by region, with some test sites already coming online . Apple Maps can help you find test locations . Here is how to know if you are eligible for a test and why there are no home coronavirus test kits yet.

We will update this story regularly as test kits become more widely available in the coming months. For now, here's a snapshot of the types of tests available.

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Nasal Swab Test

What It Is: Currently, this is the most common test for COVID-19 and is recommended by the CDC. In the nasal (or nasopharyngeal) smear test, a doctor will insert a long, Q-tip-like smear into one or both nostrils to collect a sample. The process has been described as somewhat uncomfortable but not painful. Related is the throat or oropharyngeal test stick, which takes a sample from the back of the throat.

How It Is Now Used: The test is primarily used to detect the coronavirus in high-risk situations, such as healthcare professionals or based on a person's symptoms, age, and health or recent travel history. Once a sample has been collected it may take four hours to perform the test . But it can be days or weeks to receive the results because it takes time to bring the sample to the laboratory, perform the test, and then report the results, and laboratories in some regions are listed with test samples .

A faster method for nasal smears with a tool called CRISPR can give results in 40 minutes . Another swab test from Abbott Labs can give results in 5 minutes, Abbott says.

Accuracy: The tests are just being rolled out, and the FDA has not released any numbers on how accurate the test is.

Antibody test

What it is: Coronavirus tests fall into two broad categories: those that check for the virus to see if you are currently infected, and those that look for antibodies to see if you have been previously infected and built an immune response. Within each of these two broad categories there are multiple types of tests that medical laboratories are working on and being rolled out.

A antibody test – also called a serology test – can tell if you have previously been infected with COVID-19 and have built up an immune response through antibodies. The test requires a blood sample.

How It Is Now Used: Until recently, antibody tests were not widely available in the US. Once that is the case, health officials hope to use the test results to determine who is already infected and can return work, for example. On a larger scale, test results across the community can reveal how close a region is to achieving herd immunity from previous exposure. Since a coronavirus vaccine is believed to be more than a year away, antibody testing is considered by many to be the path to safe reopening of countries.

Accuracy: As with the swab tests, the FDA and testing laboratories are not yet talking about the accuracy of antibody tests.

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Saliva Test

What It Is: With the FDA's newly approved emergency use, the saliva test, developed in conjunction with Rutgers University, would allow health professionals to collect samples from patients in a bottle spit like when providing a sample for DNA tests – instead of undergoing a nasal swab.

How It's Used Now: While the test currently requires a medical professional to take the sample, Rutgers says the test is designed to get people to sample at home by spitting into a bottle , once the process has been approved by the FDA for self-collection.

Accuracy: There is not enough information yet to determine accuracy, but researchers believe that saliva tests can be as accurate as smears.

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Test centers can take place in hospitals, converted facilities, even tents.


James Martin / CNET

Take-home test

What it is: The FDA has just approved the first home test kit, which should be available in the coming weeks. In a take-home test, you will receive a kit with the approval of the doctor you use to take a sample with a cotton swab and then send it to a lab for testing.

How It Is Used: LabCorp's first house kit uses a cotton swab to collect a nasal sample.

Accuracy: FDA Commissioner Dr. ir. Stephen Hahn said he expects the results of the first home test kit to be as accurate as those collected on

Testing will play a key role in helping authorities decide when restrictions should be lifted and here are what steps to take to prevent the virus from spreading further when society opens up again. If you still have limitations, if you need to go out in public, can do the following to stay safe .


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