Rapid Tests vs. RT-PCR COVID-19 Tests: What’s the Difference?

There are a number of types of COVID-19 tests available on the market, all generated with the intent to help diagnose and improve the treatment of patients with severe symptoms. Unfortunately, many of these tests face the same obstacles as other infectious disease diagnostics with slow turnaround times and questions that circulate on their precision or efficacy.

Recently, Rapid Antigen Tests have gained traction to help address the need for quick results, especially in time-restricted situations such as urgent care or traveling.

In this article, we’ll describe the difference between Rapid (Antigen) Tests to the technology behind our intercept PCR COVID-19 tests, and why RT-PCR continues to be the gold standard in infectious disease diagnostics.

Rapid Antigen Tests

These tests are administered to those with or without COVID-19 symptoms via nasopharyngeal swabs that aim to examine specimens for protein fragments that may readily identify them as belonging to the SARS-CoV-2 virus. These tests typically provide rapid results – usually within a half-hour – but are at increased risk of a false negative (a result that indicates the individual does not have coronavirus when they actually do) or a false positive (a result that indicates a person has coronavirus when they actually don’t).

For those who may be experiencing symptoms associated with COVID-19, it is likely that a follow-up with an RT-PCR test may be required to better determine the likelihood of infection.

But individuals who are asymptomatic and use Rapid Antigen Tests proactively may be at an increased risk to receive inaccurate results.

RT-PCR Tests

Like Rapid Tests, RT-PCR tests are also used to determine if an individual has contracted the SARS-CoV-2 virus.  As stated by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), these laboratory-based tests detect very small amounts of SARS-CoV-2 virus by amplifying viral RNA through reverse-transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) technology and are recognized as the gold standard for the diagnosis of COVID-19.

Though these tests traditionally offer improved insights, some laboratories using PCR-type technology return patient results within 3-7 days which can greatly impact patient treatment and outcomes. Currently, through the use of advanced PCR techniques, Integrity Laboratory’s intercept PCR product line offers more precise results in 24 hours or less.

In addition, though most of these tests also utilize a nasopharyngeal swab, Integrity Laboratories now offers our new line of Proliva DX tests that utilize an oral saliva specimen to improve patient comfort and reduce the need for invasive testing.

Despite the rise of Rapid Antigen Tests, only Integrity Laboratories’ intercept PCR can provide unrivaled precision diagnostics focused on patient care and comfort.

Contact our Client Solutions services today to learn more about our Proliva DX test, and our other line of infectious disease diagnostics using our intercept PCR technology.

Integrity Laboratories began testing for SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) under Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) on March 23.

Please direct all inquiries to covid19@integritylaboratories.com for immediate review.

Click Here for CDC recommendations for Identifying Monkeypox.

FDA Authorization Letter   |   FDA EUA Summary

CARES Act Statement