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Why should we test for Covid-19?

Updated: Jul 15, 2021

The coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) has created complete and utter upheaval in the whole world, putting incredible pressure on the pharmaceutical and health industry to come up with solutions. One of the measures that the healthcare industry has delivered to mitigate the effects of this pandemic is the development of a range of tests that are designed to detect and identify the presence of SARS-CoV-2 which is the virus responsible for Covid-19, helping clinicians and researchers track cases of infection in a bid to control the continued spread of this disease that has been proving deadly to so many.

These tests are a crucial tool in this fight against the spread of this disease, however they do have a number of drawbacks.

The most common test used to detect Covid-19 in the body is the RT-PCR. This test is performed using nasal swabs, throat swabs and tests of saliva or other bodily fluids. This test is minimally invasive but may be uncomfortable for some people. Deep nasal swabs are reasonably reliable and are known to have fewer false negatives when compared to other types of tests. One disadvantage of this type of test is its long turnaround, which may hamper the fight against this disease. Additionally, there is still an incidence of false negatives, where the tests say the patients do not have the virus when they actually do.

Another type of test conducted in the fight against Covid-19 is the Antigen Test. This test is conducted by taking a nasal or throat swab. This test gives results within minutes by detecting fragments of protein that are present on the surface of the virus. However, antigen tests feature a high false-negative rate (evidence suggests rates as high as 50%). In this case patients with negative antigen tests who display the classic signs and symptoms of COVID-19 may be obliged to perform another type of test to determine whether they are actually positive or not.

The body produces antibodies that are proteins that combat viruses and infections in the body. Antibody tests are used to identify specific antibodies that the immune system has generated in response to a virus, including SARS-CoV-2.

After being exposed to a virus, it may take the body a number of days or even weeks to develop antibodies. These antibodies, or proteins will typically remain in the blood for several weeks after recovery. While this test is not effective to diagnose an active coronavirus infection, it may indicate whether the body has developed an immunity to the disease. However, to date there is still not sufficient evidence that presence of these proteins will actually protect the immune system from future infection.

Extensive COVID-19 testing on a worldwide basis is key to enable researchers to understand clearly how the disease is spread and this information is crucial to come up with an effective plan to stop the spread of this virus. On the other hand, while antibody tests may not help to detect active infections, these kind of tests are vital to establish whether patients who have recovered from Covid-19 have developed an immunity to the virus.

“The more testing you do the clearer the picture is on who is infected and thus who needs to be isolated,” said senior lecturer in microbiology at University of Sussex, Dr. Edward Wright. He outlined how intensive testing may help reduce travel restrictions much sooner and provide researchers with better understanding of how the disease travels and is spread. “It’s vital that testing, whether it’s PCR or antibodies, is ramped up as much as possible to provide clear evidence on what is happening and where we should be going,” he concluded.

Swabbing can be performed at one of our partners - Rapid Screening Malta. Click here to book an appointment for a swab. Contact us today on 2122 1355, 9985 2404 or send an email on for more information.

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