A PCR test is accurate, but takes more time. PCR stands for Polymerase Chain Reaction. In a PCR test, a sample of the throat and nasal mucus is taken with a cotton swab and sent to a laboratory. The laboratory examines whether genetic material from the coronavirus is present in the mucus. The PCR is a very accurate test, but it takes longer to get the result.
The rapid test is a collective name for methods that test for corona in a different way and give a faster result. Some of these tests have a slightly lower test sensitivity than the regular PCR tests. At Covidtest Limburg, we offer the antigen rapid test. This is a test that indicates whether there are virus proteins in the nose and throat mucus. The results of this test are available quickly. The antigen rapid test has a lower sensitivity than the PCR or LAMP test and can therefore also be used for people without symptoms.
Advantages of rapid tests
Rapid tests can help fight the coronavirus and keep social and economic movement going. Rapid tests reduce the waiting times for the test lanes; increase the speed with which test results are available; increase the test range; and increase people's willingness to be tested.
Rapid test as a complement to regular PCR test
Rapid tests are only chosen if they can be carried out quickly, safely, and reliably, and if the test results provide enough certainty. Sometimes, this means that a PCR test is still necessary after the test result of an antigen rapid test is in. This is to make absolutely sure that someone is not infected, for example for healthcare workers or people who come to their GP with serious complaints.
PCR test standard for those without symptoms
As of 14 December 2020, people that don't experience any symptoms but have been at risk of infection can also have themselves tested for corona at Covidtest Limburg. This is possible from the 5th day after the risk. For these cases, it is important to use the test with the highest sensitivity, because if you don’t have symptoms or have only had symptoms for a short while, you will usually carry less virus particles. Until it is clear whether antigen tests in this group are sensitive enough, the advice for these cases is always to take a PCR test.
Testing for antibodies in the blood (serological tests)
Serological tests require you to give some blood, and show whether someone has antibodies in their blood. Antibodies are a sign that someone has had the virus. Serological tests are now only used to research whether people in the Netherlands are building up immunity against the virus. Serological tests are used to estimate whether people are building up and retaining immunity to the virus. It takes your body a relatively long time after it has been infected to start producing antibodies. That is why serological tests can only be used 2 to 3 weeks after a person develops symptoms. Serological tests determine whether someone has been infected with the virus, but not whether someone is contagious. As such, serological tests are not suitable for determining a 'live' infection. Covidtest Limburg does not yet offer this test.