There are three different coronavirus tests, but they vary in accuracy and how quickly you'll get the results back.By Kristine Sorensen

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – There are three types of coronavirus tests: the molecular — considered the traditional — test, the antigen test and the antibody test.

The molecular is the most accurate at detecting if someone currently has COVID-19. It’s done through a nasal or throat swab.

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Dr. Alan Wells, medical director for UPMC laboratories, says it’s best to have it performed or observed by a medical professional rather than doing it yourself at home.

“It is very hard to correctly collect yourself without someone who knows what you should be doing, observing, and saying, ‘No, go back into your left nose,'” says Dr. Wells.

The downside of the molecular test is that it can take several days or weeks to get results.

Test results are prioritized for people who are critically ill, in nursing homes and work in healthcare.


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Another test called the antigen test also detects current infections, but it’s not as accurate. It’s also done through a nasal or throat swab and results are quick —- coming in less than an hour.

But the results can’t always be trusted — like what happened with Ohio Governor Mike DeWine whose antigen test first tested positive, then negative.

“We don’t know what a negative really means,” Dr. Wells explains. “If you have high suspicion and you get a negative antigen test, you still need a molecular because it will pick up many more.”

The antibody test is different. It shows if you have COVID-19 antibodies, but not when you were infected — it could have been months ago or currently. It’s a blood test with results coming back in in one to three days.

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If it would help you to see this printed out, the FDA has a great graphic on its website.

Kristine Sorensen