Rapid vs PCR COVID-19 Testing: What’s the Difference?

February 28, 2023

Getting yourself tested for COVID-19 is one of the best steps you can take to help curb the spread of the virus. There are two different types of test one can use for covid. Both tests are very effective and yield good results. In this article we will discuss both testing methods and look at the pros and cons of each. For more information about testing and for same-day COVID-19 services, visit the walk-in clinic at AFC Urgent Care Bedford today. 


How the PCR test works is by taking a piece of your RNA which is then amplified in the lab with the aid of technology. The point of amplifying the RNA is that it identifies even the smallest strands of the virus. Not to worry however as the test doesn't affect your DNA in any shape or form and the tester can't use your sample for anything other than telling you if the result is positive or negative.

Advantages of PCR Testing

1. Results are gotten faster

2. Treatment can begin on time since the result is obtained quickly.

3. Unnecessary medication will be avoided as the doctors won't need to use any empirical treatment, since the diagnosis is already known.

4. It reduces unnecessary testing.

5. It is cost effective and you don't have to spend extra on further testing.

Disadvantages of PCR Testing

Although PCR testing is the gold standard for covid testing, it has some drawbacks. The test must be done by a professional and this is not always easy to get as there's a lot of backlog in the hospitals. PCR testing is so powerful that it can stay positive even weeks after the test was done. This can be very dangerous especially if the patient has already recovered from the virus.

Rapid COVID-19 Testing

Rapid test which is also known as antigen test works by identifying proteins found outside of the virus. An antigen test mimics the activities of antibodies which help fight off invading pathogens. After your nasal swab is collected, it is then placed into a liquid and then onto a test strip. The test strip acts like an antibody in this case. If any traces of the virus are found in your system, the molecules in the liquid will attach to those pathogens and a thin line will appear on the strip indicating that the test was positive. If no traces of the virus are found then the molecules in the liquid stay in place and no line will be seen on the strip, this means the test was negative.

Advantages of Rapid Testing

1. Results come out in about 15 minutes

2. Rapid testing helps slow down the spread of the virus since results are processed faster.

3. Rapid tests can be performed without the help of a professional. Of course there is a bit of room for user error but as long as you follow the instructions correctly you'll be able to successfully get your result.

Disadvantages of Rapid Testing

Unlike the PCR test, a rapid test only lets you know if there's an active form of the virus in your system. Rapid testing is unable to detect small traces of the virus in the system and it is less accurate than PCR thus leading to more false negative results.

Visit AFC Urgent Care Bedford for COVID-19 Testing

Both methods of testing have their advantages and disadvantages. Regardless of which you choose, you have to get tested for the virus. Visit the walk-in clinic at AFC Urgent Care Bedford  as soon as possible to get yourself tested and the appropriate treatment can be started if need be.

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