Updated on January 18, 2021

What is a RT-PCR test for COVID-19?

There are now 3 different types of COVID tests in the market.  The RT-PCR test is the most accurate test but the disadvantage is that it takes longer time to get the results compared to the other 2.  As of now, the gold standard test remains RT-PCR test but the antibody and antigen tests are also useful tests to help healthcare professionals to monitor how COVID infection spreads.

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The COVID-19 RT-PCR test is a real-time reverse transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) test for the qualitative detection of nucleic acid from the virus found in nasal swab, sputum or nasopharyngeal wash/aspirate.  The results are very accurate and are usually ready within 2-3 days. 


The COVID Serology test detects the presence of antibody against the virus in your blood.  Antibodies usually develop within 1-3 weeks after infection to fight the virus.  A positive antibody test means you have been infected (or received the Covid vaccine) with the virus at some point in the past. However, it cannot tell whether you are still infected or harbouring the virus at the time of testing.


The COVID Antigen test detects protein fragments of the virus from a nasal swab.  A positive test means you are infected with the virus.   Although the test results can be much faster, the test is less accurate than RT-PCR test because it cannot detect smaller amounts of virus in an infected person.  This can give rise to a false negative result (when it tells people they don’t have the virus when they actually do). 

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Disclaimer. TELEME blog posts contains general information about health conditions and treatments. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. The information is not advice and should not be treated as such. 

If you think you may be suffering from any medical condition, you should seek immediate medical attention from your doctor or other professional healthcare providers. You should never delay seeking medical advice, disregard medical advice, or discontinue medical treatment because of information on this website.

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