PCR Testing is the most sensitive test that is currently available, able to detect active infection some days before the patient is infectious or symptomatic. It is the gold standard test; used in the NHS daily. PCR testing results are available before the end of the next day. It is performed in machines than cycle through different temperatures, as the process involves the changing of temperature this takes some time.
Antigen Testing is the fastest and cheapest of all lab tests for COVID-19. Unlike PCR , the genetic material of the virus is not searched for, but rather the protein structures on a virally infected cell produced by COVID-19; usually the so-called ‘spike’ protein. Antigen tests often become positive after having had symptoms for a couple of days. Their use is particularly powerful when patients are attending communal events and a quick check needs to be performed to see if attendees are infectious with COVID-19. Furthermore, during winter months, when people often have symptoms of the common cold or flu, performing an antigen test will ascertain whether the condition is the coronavirus or not.
Antibody tests: When we get infected with COVID-19, our bodies make antibodies to fight the infection. The antibody test looks for the presence of these antibodies, which usually mean that we have been infected with COVID-19 in the past. This test uses a finger-prick blood test.