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Current Types of Tests for Covid-19

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As everyone is fully aware at this point, testing for COVID-19 has been a working issue as we’ve dealt with the impact of the pandemic. Obviously, before the virus was discovered tests could not be developed, so the development is occurring now as swiftly as possible. so as tests This is not ideal when time is of the essence, but there is little else to do aside from research and development in a mad fury. Because of the situation, there is not time for FDA approval or following the standard procedure. Therefore, Emergency Use Authorizations (EUA’s) have been distributed to laboratories by the FDA that have been working on the various tests to combat the spread. As reported by Newtrals on the 9th of May, 2020, the most recent authorization has been released for an antigen based test that can provide fast results at the point of care. 

 

What Do We Have So Far?

 

Previously, there have been two other tests given EUA’s over the last few months. Namely, there is an RT-PCR test and an antibody test that have different purposes and individual drawbacks. 

The RT-PCR test is useful to determine if you are currently infected with COVID-19 at the time of testing. The full name reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction refers to the enzyme and reaction used to replicate cellular data or genetic material. Using the enzyme, reverse transcriptase, RNA (material used to build proteins) is used as a template to synthesize chromosomal DNA. The resulting DNA is cross referenced against COVID-19 segments to reveal a positive or negative result. This test has a couple different methods of procedure. The first iteration of this test required samples to be sent to a laboratory with a thermocycler and sophisticated equipment, delaying the results of the test by days or weeks. 

The more recent version is an isothermal RT-PCR test that can be performed at the point of care. This test is faster and less expensive, producing results in less than an hour. However, this test still requires professionals for administration/analysis and uses reagents that may be in short supply. 

 

The second type of test is antibody testing, which is used to determine if you’ve been previously infected with the virus. This type of testing makes use of immune system components that are produced specifically in response to a COVID-19 infection. This test is not useful in assessing if someone is infected currently, only if they have previously been infected. Because there is limited research available about antibody production after infection, there is a possibility of false negative results. 

 

The Newest Addition

 

Finally, Antigen tests have been newly given emergency use authorization. The antigen is a part of a pathogen recognized as foreign from the body. They are usually surface proteins of the virus that cause an immune response. Because the test directly assesses if there are viruses present in the body compared to testing if the genetic material is recombinant in cells the tests are less expensive, faster, and require less training or equipment than PCR based testing. The flaw of these tests is their prevalence of the false negative. This occurs when the antigen is not present in a high enough quantity in the sample for the reaction to show the presence of the virus. This is especially likely in asymptomatic people. The accuracy of the positive result is believed to be highly accurate. As development continues and the tests become more sensitive, the prevalence of false negatives should decrease. 

 

Because this test does not need expensive equipment or reagents and because it is a simple reaction, there is the possibility of mass production and mass use of tests. It is highly likely that the antigen-based test becomes the most accessible for determining a positive result. Because of the possibility of a false negative, PCR based tests will still be necessary to confirm a negative result. Yet, having a full understanding of who is positive or carrying the disease is a huge step towards controlling the pandemic. 

 

Time Moves Forward

 

Hopefully, as time moves forward and more people and companies accept this new way of life things will become much more stable. Testing is going to play a huge part in reclaiming the “normal” way of life and allow people to begin living without fear once again. Time will heal all, it is only a question of how much time and what humans can do to shorten the battle. The more we work together and find solutions, the faster we can overcome this issue. 

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