• Shruti GOCHHWAL

How Is Coronavirus Testing Done?

While the number of cases of coronavirus keeps increasing, do you know how the testing is done? Here we have compiled all the necessary information you wish to know about the coronavirus testing.

What is Coronavirus?

Coronavirus belongs to a large family of viruses that cause illnesses such as the common cold, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), and the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS). Though this group of viruses has been there for years, the novel strain called Covid-19 was first identified in Wuhan, China in December 2019. The other name for Covid-19 is SARS-CoV-2.

What are the Common Symptoms of Covid-19?

Coronavirus-Symptoms

A woman coughing, Credits: pixabay


The specific symptoms of Covid-19 are fever, cough, and shortness of breath.

People develop symptoms when they are in the areas of the outbreak or when they are in close contact with a person who is positive for Covid-19.

As per the Union Health Ministry, 80% of the Covid-19 cases in India are asymptomatic. So this creates difficulty in identifying the person and isolating them from the rest of the people.

How Is Coronavirus Testing Done?

How the Samples are Collected?

Sample Collection

Blood Collection for Covid testing, Credits: pixabay


If you think you have any of the symptoms of Covid-19, you must contact your healthcare provider immediately. In the below mentioned methods, the samples are collected.

  1. Swab Test: In this method, a special swab is used to take a sample from your nose or throat

  2. Nasal aspirate: A saline solution will be injected into your nose and, then a sample is taken with a light suction

  3. Tracheal aspirate: A bronchoscope is put into your mouth to reach your lungs from where a sample is collected.

  4. Sputum Test: Sputum is a thick mucus that gets accumulated in the lungs and comes out with a cough. During this test, a person required to cough up sputum in a special cup or a swab is used to take a sample from your nose.

  5. Blood test: In this case, a blood sample is collected from a vein in the arm.

What are the Various Tests to Detect Covid-19?

 The tests to detect Covid-19 are

  1. Diagnostic Test- Molecular and Antigen test

  2. Antibody Test

  3. Diagnostic Test

 1.1. Molecular Test

Molecular test

A vial containing a sample for molecular analysis. Credits: pixabay


If you have an active viral infection, a molecular test called RT-PCR (Real-Time PCR) can be done to check the viral load.

1.2. Antigen Test

In this method, samples are taken from the nose, throat, and lungs. This method helps to detect the specific proteins on the surface of the virus.

Antibody test

Antibody test

A person performing a lab test, Credits: pexels


This test helps detect the presence of antibodies in the blood of patients infected with Covid-19. It takes at least 12 days after exposure for your body to make enough antibodies to show up on a test. This test is not helpful to identify active Covid-19 infection.

The table below describes the three tests for identifying Covid-19.

Molecular testAntigen testAntibody testAlso known as…Diagnostic test, viral test, molecular test, nucleic acid amplification test (NAAT), RT-PCR test, LAMP testRapid diagnostic test (Some molecular tests are also rapid tests.)Serological test, serology, blood test, serology testHow the sample is taken…Nasal or throat swab (most tests) Saliva (a few tests)Nasal or throat swabFingerstick or blood drawHow long it takes to get results…Same day (some locations) or up to a weekOne hour or lessSame day (many locations) or 1-3 daysIs another test needed…This test is typically highly accurate and usually does not need to be repeated.Positive results are usually highly accurate but negative results may need to be confirmed with a molecular test.Sometimes a second antibody test is needed for accurate results.What it shows…Diagnoses active coronavirus infectionDiagnoses active coronavirus infectionShows if you’ve been infected by a coronavirus in the pastWhat it can’t do…Show if you ever had COVID-19 or were infected with the coronavirus in the pastDefinitively rule out active coronavirus infection. Antigen tests are more likely to miss an active coronavirus infection compared to molecular tests. Your health care provider may order a molecular test if your antigen test shows a negative result but you have symptoms of COVID-19.Diagnose active coronavirus infection at the time of the test or show that you do not have COVID-19

Adapted from https://www.fda.gov/media/140161/download

Other Things to Know

What If the Test Comes Positive?

If the Covid-19 test is positive, isolation is important. Stay home. You must make sure that you are not spreading the virus to others. If you are developing symptoms of pneumonia, you should get admitted to a hospital immediately.

Are There any Risks Associated with the Testing?

You may feel a bit uncomfortable when nasal aspiration is done. But the effect is temporary. In very rare cases, during a tracheal aspiration, chances of bleeding and infection are possible. During an intravenous sample collection, mild swelling and pain are possible in the needle injected area.

What is the Covid-19 Test Kit Used?

Covid testing

Laboratory kits, Credits: pexels


The Pune-based diagnostic firm developed the country’s first testing kit called Mylab PathoDetectTM CVD-19. Dr. Minal Dakhave Bhosale developed this kit along with her team.

Is the Covid-19 Test Free?

The test is free only for people who cannot afford it. The private laboratories charge 4500 INR for a single test.

Take-Home Message

Covid-19 testing is mandatory to identify people who are at risk of developing the infection. The molecular test is considered to be the sensitive one to detect the Covid-19.

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