The key difference between Rapid and PCR test is that rapid test is an antigen test that detects specific protein fragments of Coronavirus, while PCR test is a genetic test that detects RNA molecule specific for Coronavirus.
Coronavirus is a larger family of viruses that cause the common cold, severe acute respiratory syndrome, etc. A massive outbreak of this virus erupted in China in 2019, which is currently destructing the whole health system in the world. There are a number of lab tests that are set up for detecting Coronavirus accurately. These include swab test, nasal aspirate suction, tracheal aspirate test, sputum test, blood test, rapid test, PCR test, etc. Rapid test and PCR test are two types of commonly used rapid diagnostic tests for Coronavirus.
What is Rapid Test?
Rapid test is an antigen test that detects specific protein fragments of Coronavirus. COVID19 rapid antigen test is an in vitro diagnostic test. It qualitatively detects SARS-CoV-2 antigen. For testing purposes, human nasopharyngeal swabs are taken. The test result is available within 15 to 20 minutes. It can be normally performed in a doctors’ office or hospital. The rapid test is more suitable for patients who show COVID19 symptoms. Though the rapid test produces results quickly, the results may not always be accurate.
It is common to get false negative and false positive results from this test. False negative result indicates that the individual does not have Coronavirus infection when they actually do. On the other hand, false positive result means the individual has Coronavirus infection when they actually don’t. A person who receives the negative test result for the Rapid test should receive the PCR test result for confirmation. However, when the viruses’ load is high in the human body, the Rapid antigen test generally provides accurate test result.
What is PCR Test?
PCR test is a genetic test that detects RNA molecule specific for Coronavirus. Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) is performed to test genetic material. This test detects the virus at the time of detection if a person is infected. This test identifies a genetic fragment in the virus. It is RNA. The PCR test is the gold standard test for diagnosing the COVID19 virus because it is the most accurate and reliable diagnosing test. Any person can take this test if a person has symptoms or if a person has been within six feet of someone who tested positive for COVID19 for 15 minutes or more.
This test can be performed in a clinic or hospital. For this test, the respiratory materials are collected through swabs. When laboratory technologists receive the samples, they perform the extraction of the genetic material of the virus. Finally, through PCR protocol, a specific part of the genetic material of SARS-CoV-2 is detected. The turnaround time for the test result is normally 2-3 days. But test result can be even produced within 24 hours with better detection kits. Moreover, when demand is high, the test result can take a week or longer.
What are the Similarities Between Rapid Test and PCR Test?
- Both tests can detect Coronavirus accurately.
- They are rapid Coronavirus detection tests.
- Both tests are better than conventional Coronavirus detection tests.
- They are the most popular tests for Coronavirus detection at the moment.
What is the Difference Between Rapid and PCR Test?
Rapid test is an antigen test that detects specific protein fragments of Coronavirus, while PCR test is a genetic test that detects RNA molecule specific for Coronavirus. Thus, this is the key difference between Rapid and PCR Test. Furthermore, Rapid test is a less accurate test compared to PCR Test when detecting Coronavirus.
The following infographic presents the differences between Rapid and PCR Test in tabular form for side by side comparison.
Summary – Rapid vs PCR Test
Thus, Rapid test and PCR test are two types of rapid diagnostic tests for detecting current Coronavirus infection. The key difference between Rapid and PCR test is that rapid test is an antigen test that detects specific protein fragments of Coronavirus, while PCR test is a genetic test that detects RNA molecule specific for Coronavirus.
1. SA, Owner: PRIMA Lab. “COVID-19 Antigen Rapid Test.” Prima Home Test.
2.“PCR Test for COVID-19: What It Is, How Its Done, What the Results Mean.” Cleveland Clinic.