Both RT-PCR and Rapid PCR are COVID-19 diagnostic molecular tests. An RT-PCR test is collected on-site and then sent to the laboratory to be analyzed— this COVID-19 test detects genetic material of the virus using a technique called polymerase chain reaction (PCR)—results take 24-48hrs. The Rapid PCR test is collected and analyzed on-site using the Abbott ID NOW COVID-19 assay machine. This molecular test utilizes isothermal nucleic acid amplification technology for the qualitative detection of the virus, known as NEAR technology—results take 15min.

Both Molecular PCR and antigen tests are types of diagnostic tests that can detect if you have an active COVID-19 infection. Rapid antigen tests are highly specific for COVID-19, but are not as sensitive as molecular PCR tests. This means that there is a higher chance of false negatives than with many molecular tests.

A negative antibody result means the test did not detect antibodies to the virus that causes COVID-19.  A positive result means the test did detect antibodies to the virus that causes COVID-19, and it is possible that you had a recent or prior COVID-19 infection and you have developed an adaptive immune response to the virus. It is unclear how long antibodies stay in the body following a COVID infection. It is also unclear if antibodies give you protective immunity against the virus, so results from a finger stick antibody test should not be used to find out if you have immunity from the virus.

We do offer a non-invasive nasal collection route which takes a sample from inside the nostrils. This route is available for the RT-PCR, Rapid PCR and Rapid antigen COVID-19 tests. The interior nasal route is especially recommended for children. 

The accuracy of any diagnostic test depends on many factors, including whether the sample was collected properly. Results may also be affected by the timing of the test. For example, if you get tested on the day of exposure, your test result will most likely come back negative, because there are not yet enough viral particles in your nose to detect the infection. The chance of getting a false negative is less likely if you are tested a few days after you were exposed, or a few days after you develop symptoms.

If you have COVID-like symptoms, you should self-isolate and contact your doctor whether your test is positive or negative. Your doctor will likely suggest a PCR test for confirmation. You should also self-isolate and call your doctor if you get a positive test result, even if you don’t have symptoms. If you don’t have symptoms and test negative, it means that you are not infected. However, you should continue to follow the standard prevention strategies of physical distancing, avoiding crowds, wearing a mask, and hand washing.

Term Guide:

  • COVID PCR TEST: Real time RT–PCR is one of the most widely used laboratory methods for detecting the COVID-19 virus. Reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) is a lab technique combining reverse transcription or RNA into DNA and amplification of specific DNA targets using polymerase chain reaction (PCR). It is primarily used to measure the amount of a specific RNA. This is achieved by monitoring the amplification reaction using fluorescence, a technique called real-time PCR or quantitative PCR (qPCR). A positive result is highly specific for the presence of the SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) virus.
  • COVID Antibody TEST: Antibodies are produced by your immune system during a viral attack; they bind to foreign substances like viruses and bacteria, neutralizing them. Antibody testing looks for IgM antibodies which appear within days of infection, and IgG antibodies that remain in the blood and provide long-term protection.
  • Rapid COVID Antigen TEST: RAPID Antigen tests directly detect the presence or absence of an antigen. It is commonly used for the detection of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Rapid tests are a type of lateral flow tests that detect protein, distinguishing it from other medical tests that detect antibody, or nucleic acid. Antigen tests look for pieces of proteins that make up the SARSCoV-2 virus to determine if the person has an active infection. A positive antigen test means that the person being tested has an active COVID-19 infection.
  • Rapid Molecular PCR TEST: The RAPID molecular PCR test uses isothermal nucleic acid amplification technology for qualitative detection of SARSCoV-2 RdRp gene. Using fluorescent reporter probes—known as NEAR technology, an on-site test is performed using the Abbott ID NOW molecular PCR assay machine. 
  • SARS-CoV-2: the virus that causes COVID-19.
  • COVID-19: the illness caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
  • Diagnostic Test: shows if you have an active COVID-19 infection.
  • Molecular Test: a diagnostic test that detects genetic material from the virus (RNA & DNA).
  • Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR): one type of molecular diagnostic test analyzed in a laboratory.
  • Nucleic Acid Amplification Test: one type of molecular diagnostic test.