There are two kinds of tests for COVID19:
- PCR (polymerase chain reaction) to detect fragments of protein from the virus. This test is run on a specimen of mucus swabbed from deep in your nose. This test is designed to find COVID19 in patients who are actively infected. As of 6/11/2020, the FDA had rapidly approved and listed 74 tests of this type at FDA.gov. The accuracy of these tests, in particular their tendency to register a false negative result, has been a point of concern. The particular brand of test you have access to will vary by vendor but your test results should name the manufacturer which will allow you to Google the accuracy of your test.
- Antibody tests measure anti-viral proteins (antibodies) that your body produces after infection with COVID19. This test is performed on a specimen of blood drawn from a vein, typically in your arm. This test is designed to identify patients who have been previously been infected with COVID19. As of 6/11/2020, the FDA had rapidly approved and listed 15 tests of this type at FDA.gov. Physicians were initially hopeful that this test would provide a way to clearly advise patients about how likely they were to acquire COVID19 infection. Unfortunately, we don’t have enough experience with this test to know if a positive result means that you have immunity to COVID19. Scientific studies are underway to answer this important question.