Different Types of COVID-19 Tests with Advantages, Limitations


COVID-19 is a highly contagious respiratory disease caused by a novel coronavirus that emerged in late 2019. Since then, it has spread to more than 200 countries and territories, infecting over 200 million people and killing over 4 million as of August 2021. To combat this global pandemic, scientists and health authorities have developed various tests to detect the presence of the virus or the antibodies produced by the immune system in response to the infection.

Testing is crucial for diagnosing COVID-19, isolating and treating infected individuals, tracing and quarantining their contacts, monitoring the spread and severity of the disease, and evaluating the effectiveness of vaccines and treatments. However, not all tests are the same in terms of how they work, what they measure, how accurate they are, how long they take, and what they can tell us about the infection status and immunity of a person.

There are two main types of tests available to detect COVID-19: diagnostic tests and antibody tests. Diagnostic tests can reveal if a person has an active coronavirus infection at the time of testing, while antibody tests can show if a person has had a past infection and developed some level of immunity. Each type of test has its own advantages and limitations, which will be discussed in detail in the following sections.