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
The emergence of vaccines on the market should not hamper screening, as the containment of epidemics relies primarily on the rapid identification and isolation of patients with COVID-19 to prevent further spread of the virus.
Early diagnosis is important in this context, not only for the diagnosis and possible virological follow-up of hospitalized patients, but also to ensure the health safety of caregivers, first responders and the general population. Therefore, the development of Point of Care (POC) has been recommended by the WHO.
Rapid antigen detection tests meet the requirements of early detection (after infection) because the average incubation period of 3 to 5 days is too short for the development of an immune response and the development of antibodies.
The real-time reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (rt-PCR) is the main IVD test used for COVID-19 and takes a few hours. Therefore, the availability of rapid and cost-effective POC antigen tests will play a critical role in the fight against COVID-19.