COVID-19 is caused by a coronavirus called SARS-CoV-2. Older adults and people who have severe underlying medical conditions like heart or lung disease or diabetes seem to be at higher risk for developing more serious complications from COVID-19 illness.
There are primarily two ways to detect COVID-19 infection.
- PCR or antigen tests – for current or active infection
- Antibody tests – for current or past infection
PCR tests detect virus’s genetic material while antigen tests detect specific proteins on the surface of the virus. Antigen tests are similar to PCR tests but are quicker and less expensive than a PCR test. Antibody tests show that you might still be infected (IgM) or were previously infected (IgG) by the virus, even if you never showed any signs or symptoms (asymptomatic).
Importance of Rapid Antigen Testing
In the absence of vaccine and specific treatment, the containment of the epidemics relies mainly on rapid identification and isolation of COVID-19 patients to prevent further spread of the virus.
Early diagnosis is important in this context, not only for the diagnosis and possible virological monitoring of hospitalized patients but also to ensure the health security of caregivers, first responders, and the general population. Therefore, development of point of care (POC) was recommended by WHO.
Rapid antigen-detection assays fulfil the requirement of the early detection (after infection) as the average incubation of 3-5 days is too short for development of an immune response and development of antibodies.
Real-time reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (rt-PCR) is the main IVD assay used for COVID-19 and takes a few hours. Therefore, availability of a cost-effective, rapid POC antigen tests will play a critical role in the fight against COVID-19.