What type of coronavirus tests is available for at home testing?
The SARS‑CoV‑2 virus (“coronavirus “) is the causative of COVID 19 disease and the Covid pandemic. This virus is a member of the highly diverse coronavirus family, named for the crown-like spikes present on its surface. Like other members of this virus family, coronavirus has a protein envelope and transfers its genetic material as a single-stranded RNA. To detect the coronavirus in our body and its effects on our immune system several lab tests were developed. Some of these tests are rapid tests which mean results can be obtained in 15-30 minutes at the place of testing and others are lab tests that need to receive a collected nasal or saliva sample (specimens) for their analysis. For coronavirus testing that is analyzed by labs, the specimen can be collected in a clinic, a testing location like a drive-thru, or self-collected at home. This post covers what type of coronavirus tests is available for at home testing?
Three major detection methods were developed depending on what is measured by the covid test. The first is Nucleic Acid Amplification Tests (NAATs) also called molecular or PCR test. This covid 19 test detects the presence of the coronavirus RNA in our body and is used for diagnosis and confirmation of Covid 19 infection. NAAT/PCR tests are performed only in labs. The second type of covid test detects the crown-like spike protein which is a unique protein of the coronavirus and normally does not exist in the human body. This test is also called an antigen test. Antigen tests can be either rapid or lab tests. The third type of test is an antibody test which detects if our immune system developed antibodies (protein molecules that recognized foreign antigens) that can help our body to naturalize infections. Antibody tests can be also either rapid or lab tests.
There are several reasons why and when to have used each type of test. Screening of asymptomatic individuals prior to traveling or large indoor events is helping to prevent the spread of Covid-19 in places with a large crowd in close environments which tends to be super-spread events. Another coronavirus testing is used for the diagnosis of symptomatic individuals who developed known symptoms of Covid 19 (fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing ect.) Since these symptoms are also common in influenza (flu), common cold, or pneumonia while other Covid 19 symptoms like nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea are common in stomach flu it is important to have a Covid 19 test when you have these symptoms. Both PCR and antibody tests can be used for Covid 19 diagnosis. Both the PCR and the antibody coronavirus testing can be done at home and many at home coronavirus kits are available to be purchased in pharmacy or online.
Coronavirus antibody test can tell if an individual developed antibodies to the coronavirus envelope. This test requires a blood sample that can be collected either at a clinic or at home and can be either a rapid or a lab test. In general, the higher the antibodies level is the higher the protection. However, there is not enough information to provide an exact risk level and this test is used as a piece of qualitative information only, especially for individuals with a compromised immune system or that a long period elapsed since their last vaccination dose.