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Covid-19 Testing What You Need to Know

Covid-19 Testing What You Need to Know

Currently Covid PCR (Cov-2-PCR) testing, Antigen Rapid testing and Antibody Rapid testing are the most widely used forms of testing for Covid-19.

PCR (Cov-2-PCR) Testing

PCR testing is used to detect the direct presence of the Covid-19 Antigens rather than the presence of the Antibodies fighting the Antigens. Hence, it detects the virus sooner before symptoms are realised, ultimately providing one with an early diagnosis. Thus also allows for contact tracing to be done earlier and in-turn allow patients to inform others earlier of possible exposure.

The PCR test, due to high sensitivity, can pick up the antigens on the virus in relatively low viral loads, therefore making it the most accurate test. The PCR test remains the Gold standard of Covid-19 testing, due to its laboratory-based analysis and pathology report required for official activities such as cross-border travel on a regional (eg. Countries in Africa) and international level. Results are also directly communicated to the NDH of South Africa.

Covid Antigen Rapid Test (Nasal swab process)

The Antigen Rapid test is a rapid testing process for early detection of Antigens (protein found on the surface of Covid-19 pathogens i.e. the virus) through a rapid nasal swab test. Not indifferent from a PCR test, it is a rapid response test with results presentable in 15 minutes from test being conducted. Although PCR testing is held as the Gold-standard for Antigen testing due to its laboratory analysis processes and pathology reports, this method provides a highly accurate result in a short period of time using the following process:

Once a sample is collected through nasal swabbing process, the swab is inserted into a tube with special liquid to extract the target molecule. This liquid is then dispensed onto a test cartridge and, in 15 minutes, a positive or negative result is clearly indicated. Any positive tests are directly reported to the NHLS via their online portal.

Pros

  • It is a rapid test and results can be determined in a maximum of 15 minutes & is a cost-effective method for picking up the antigens of the virus (early detection)

Cons

  • The Viral load in the human body for successful Antigen testing needs to be higher than that required for a PCR test due to the test having a lower sensitivity factor and therefore, if tested too early in the incubation period, the test may reflect a false Non-negative due to lack of viral load.

Covid Antibody Rapid Test

The Antibody Rapid test or serological testing, tests for Antibodies in a patient’s system confirming whether they have or have had the virus. The Antibodies detected are formed specifically to combat the Covid-19 Antigens invading the body. A drawback to this type of testing is that, should antibodies have been picked up, it is possible that virus has already moved through the system by the time the antibodies are detected.

Samples are taken by blood (finger prick) system and then tested on a Covid-19 Antibody cartridge to determine presence of Antibodies. Any positive tests are directly reported to the NHLS via their online portal.

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We have been using the service from Care Net since the inception of the project in October 2018 and have now used the same services for our other projects. The service rendered is a very convenient one for the line of work that we do and unfortunately some of the times we request the services in remote areas. I must applaud the teams and say we have worked with a couple of professionals, especially with carrying out the medicals on the sites we request.

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