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Step 3: Performing Tests

October 12, 2021 1077
Chart detailing the various COVID-19 tests available including the types, administration, processing time and reliability. 

It is important that the manufacturer’s instructions are followed, including the use of appropriate PPE, test-processing times, and test material disposal. The above chart details the various COVID-19 testing types, administration, processing time and reliability. 

Molecular

  • Also known as a diagnostic test, viral test, or RT-PCR test
  • Test specimen collected via nasal swab typically; throat and saliva specimen testing also possible
  • Shows whether individual has a current COVID-19 infection via fragments of viral RNA
  • Processing time can be as quick as one day or as long as one week, depending on lab capacity
  • Reliability is high when administered 1-2 days before symptom onset
  • Only waived tests may be administered in a dental office

Serology

  • Also known as an antibody test
  • Test specimen collected via finger prick or blood draw
  • Shows whether individual has been infected by COVID-19 in the past via antibody response to viral protein targets. Test does not prove immunity.
  • Processing time can be as quick as one day or as long as three days depending on lab capacity
  • Test should be administered 7-14 days after symptom onset. Reliability is questionable and a second test is usually needed for confirmation. 
  • Cannot use test to diagnose current COVID-19 infection.

Antigen

  • Also known as a point of care test or rapid test
  • Test specimen collected via nasal swab typically; throat and saliva specimen testing also possible
  • Shows whether individual has a current COVID-19 infection via detecting fragments of viral proteins
  • Processing time is 30 minutes or less
  • A negative result following close exposure or with symptoms should be confirmed by a molecular test within 48 hours.
  • Only waived tests may be administered in a dental office

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