RT-PCR Vs Rapid Antigen Test – When To Take Each?

Nikki Attkisson | Last Updated : January 21, 2022

Most Doctors will ask you to take the RT-PCR test when it is absolutely necessary to be sure if you have the virus. In fact, it is the gold standard worldwide. Many employers are asking their employees to get tested, via RT-PCR, before taking anything else up or before joining the workforce.

RT-PCR Vs Rapid Antigen Test – When To Take Each?

However, many experts believe that RT-PCR may not require for all kinds of situations. The RT-PCR or reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction test can detect even minute amounts of the virus. The test then works and establishes the infection by copying the same genetic information. This is the process as prescribed by the CDC.

RT-PCR Vs Rapid Antigen Test – When To Take Each?

The test has great amplifying capabilities that allow it to detect even very minute amounts of the viral load in an individual. Thus, these tests are considered to be very sensitive. However, it can also mislead individuals when they are recovering. It is to be noted that infected people shed the viral load and infect others in the first 72 hours of infection. And, after recovery, some of the viruses may still be present in the swab.

The CDC has said that the quarantine period is to be limited to five days from when the symptoms appear. So, if a person gets tested again after five days, there are high chances that the results will come out positive. It can confuse people, as to how they can end their quarantine before infecting others.

An RT-PCR test can even say that an incumbent is positive after 3-4 weeks. Thus, it is not always an appropriate test and not for all persons or situations. However, one should still know about the differences between both tests.

One should take the RT-PCR test when that person knows that he has been exposed to the virus. If anyone is experiencing symptoms, then also it might be a good idea to take RT-PCR. Knowing the infection status as early as possible enables a person to take precautionary guidance and medication. It can also help the incumbent isolate and stay and keep safe from family and friends. It also enables one to surpass the days of infection. When a person is just infected, then this test can help clarify the situation at hand.

The US FDA has authorized both RT-PCR and rapid antigen tests for doctors, schools, urgent care facilities, and health clinic staff. Antigen tests can also be availed as at-home tests.

If one has seemingly less weakness and has recovered quite well, then the said person can get an antigen test to detect the negativity or positivity, as the case may be. If it shows negative, the person may not be infectious anymore.

The CDC guidelines state that if an infected person has to ascertain, if he or she is still contagious, then a rapid antigen test is a must. If someone continues to test positive even after the said five days have passed, the person should isolate. After 10 days, the isolation period ends for such people. Even after someone tests negative after the infection, wearing a mask is the best thing to do to keep others safe.

The Rapid Antigen Test is considered low-sensitivity and inferior as well. So, it is not accepted in many quarters. The reason is that it picks viruses at a higher level. Currently, the FDA has not mentioned clearly what the virus load has to be counted as an infection.

However, public health officials have pointed out that it may be quite suitable to point out whether or not how infectious a person is. People can also go for rapid tests on two consecutive tests as they are less expensive as well.

Nikki Attkisson

With over 15 years as a practicing journalist, Nikki Attkisson found herself at Powdersville Post now after working at several other publications. She is an award-winning journalist with an entrepreneurial spirit and worked as a journalist covering technology, innovation, environmental issues, politics, health etc. Nikki Attkisson has also worked on product development, content strategy, and editorial management for numerous media companies. She began her career at local news stations and worked as a reporter in national newspapers.

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