Testing for COVID 19 Viral vs Antibody tests

Viral vs. Antibody Test

If you are considering getting a test for COVID-19, make sure you know the difference between a viral and antibody test.

Viral tests

Also known as polymerase chain reaction (PCR) or molecular tests.

A viral test tells you if you have a current infection and is usually done with a swab in your nasal passage.  

Antibody tests

Also known as serology tests.

An antibody test might tell you if you had a past infection. These tests are done by taking a blood sample. An antibody test should not be used to see if you currently are infected with COVID-19. It can take a few weeks after infection for your body to make antibodies.

Scientists are still researching if having antibodies to the virus that causes COVID-19 provides protection from getting infected with the virus again. We do not yet know how much protection the antibodies might provide or how long this protection might last.