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The Difference Between RT-qPCR, Rapid Antigen, And Antibody Testing

December 13, 2022

rapid antigen test

The Difference Between RT-qPCR, Rapid Antigen, And Antibody Testing

RT-qPCR? Antibody? Rapid antigen testing? When you’re trying to get tested for COVID, the long list of available tests can be confusing for anyone testing for travel, work, or peace of mind.

You might require RT-qPCR testing for travel, school, or businesses whereas you may get rapid antigen testing if you need to quickly find out if you’ve been exposed to COVID.

That’s why we are going to go over what each test does and when you should get them.

RT-qPCR Testing

RT-qPCR is a variation of PCR which stands for reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction. PCR is used for amplifying DNA within pathogens, whereas RT-qPCR is used when you need to transcribe their RNA into DNA for amplification. The reason why we want to amplify the RNA is because with a greater presence of samples, it becomes easier to detect if the virus is present.

The best time to get RT-qPCR testing is if you want a very accurate result for work or if you are travelling by plane.



Rapid Antigen Testing

Rapid antigen testing is used to detect viral proteins, but only at the peak of infection when your body has the highest amount of concentration inside. The benefit for rapid antigen testing is that it’s incredibly quick at just 30 minutes to tell you if you are infected. The disadvantage is that it’s less accurate than RT-qPCR.

This raises a small concern if people using these tests are infected but show negative, which is also known as a false-negative. This can lead to people thinking they are safe while possibly infecting those around them.



Antibody Testing 

Antibody testing is used to detect if you have had COVID-19 before. Antibody testing is not the best method to detect if you currently have a COVID infection and want to know the results right away. The reason why we do antibody testing is if you wanted to know if you had COVID before, you’re about to have a medical procedure, or if you want to donate plasma to help treat others with severe cases of COVID.

Otherwise, you should use RT-qPCR and rapid antigen testing to determine if you currently have COVID.


To summarize the main differences between RT-qPCR testing, rapid antigen testing, and antibody testing:

RT-qPCR is the most reliable method to get COVID testing but does come at a heavier price and wait time whereas the rapid antigen test loses its accuracy in exchange for speed. Antibody testing, on the other hand, is only used to determine if you had COVID in the past and not if you currently have COVID.

Let us know if you have any questions below about any testing in the comments below and we’ll gladly provide you with the best information we have.

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