PCR and rapid tests for the diagnosis of coronavirus, how do they work and how do they differ?

The use of rapid antibody detection tests will serve to increase the ability to diagnose COVID-19 early. The Ministry of Health has acquired a batch of five million units, of which more than a million began to be distributed among the autonomous communities The last Sunday. The rest will be done in the coming days.

Currently, PCR is the diagnostic diagnostic technique. Rapid antibody detection tests, whose reliability has been studied at the National Center for Microbiology with patient samples from various hospitals, will complement them. The guidelines for its use are included in the Guide published on the website of the Ministry of Health.

In this way, the use of PCR will be optimized, since if the rapid test is positive, the diagnosis is confirmed and the first test will only be necessary if it is negative.

Where and how will they perform?

These diagnostic tests will be carried out mainly in the hospital setting and in nursing homes and socio-health centers. In the first case, the rapid test is indicated in patients with high clinical suspicion, who have not undergone PCR or with negative PCR with several days of evolution.

Regarding nursing homes and socio-health centers, the objective is to detect cases early and investigate possible outbreaks. Therefore, its use is indicated in symptomatic patients if several days have elapsed since the onset of symptoms.

If more than one case with symptoms has been detected in the institution, it will not be necessary to obtain a positive result from all of them to consider that there is an outbreak, treat and isolate the symptomatic patients and proceed to quarantine the rest. Sampling and analysis will be carried out in the residence or socio-sanitary center.

In penitentiary institutions, PCR will be the diagnostic test of choice. Serological antibody detection tests are indicated in this case for patients with high clinical suspicion, without PCR or with negative PCR with several days of evolution from the onset of symptoms.

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