There are two main types of diagnostic COVID tests: antigen and molecular. The molecular tests include several different types of tests that fall under the general heading of a nucleic acid amplification test (NAAT). Included in NAAT are PCR (RT-PCR) tests and Abbott ID NOW molecular rapid tests.

In general, the antigen test is used if you have COVID symptoms or have been exposed. The molecular tests are typically used for travel. What are the COVID-19 test differences?

COVID testing options: Antigen vs PCR

What is a Molecular/PCR COVID Test?

According to the FDA, molecular tests detect the genetic material or nucleic acid present inside a virus particle. As mentioned, there are several types of molecular tests.

These tests run amplification processes to detect the virus in the genetic material. That is why they are also known as nucleic acid amplification tests (NAAT). There are lab-based molecular tests that take 3 to 7 days to provide results and there are also rapid molecular tests that allow for same-day results.

The Abbott ID NOW molecular test is considered a rapid test, which means you will receive results the same day as testing. The Abbott ID NOW test “uses isothermal technology, proprietary enzymes, and constant temperature control to achieve the fastest available RNA amplification,” according to the Abbott website.

Another type of molecular test is the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test, also known as the reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test.

What Does PCR Stand For?

The polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test is an amplification test (NAAT test) like the Abbott ID NOW test. The difference is in how long it takes for the tests to process. There are PCR tests that are sent to the lab that take 3 to 7 days to evaluate and a rapid PCR test that provides same-day results.

The PCR tests tend to be highly sensitive (especially traditional laboratory PCR tests) because the test runs multiple amplification cycles. The test can sense even low levels of viral genetic material in a patient’s sample.

The PCR rapid test, PCR lab-based test, and other molecular tests are widely accepted by airlines, surgery centers, schools, and workplaces. Because molecular tests run through multiple amplification cycles, they tend to be more sensitive than an antigen test.

COVID-19 Test Differences: Antigen Rapid Test

Instead of testing genetic material inside a virus particle like a molecular test, antigen tests detect one or more specific proteins from a virus particle, according to the FDA. Antigen tests are highly specific tests, but are less sensitive than molecular tests. However, antigen tests have a simpler design and allow for same-day results. Molecular and antigen testing are highly accurate.

Schedule Testing with Us!

There are three COVID-19 tests available at Advanced Urgent Care & Occupational Medicine. They are the Abbott ID NOW molecular rapid test, Sofia antigen rapid test, and RT-PCR molecular test that is sent to a lab for processing.

Advanced Urgent Care & Occupational Medicine and Rapid Testing teamed up to provide rapid testing through our clinics. Learn more about the rapid tests and pricing by clicking here. The rapid tests can be scheduled without a telehealth visit and results are available the same day as testing. Available rapid tests are:

If you’d like a lab-based RT-PCR test, you’ll need to complete a telehealth visit with Advanced Urgent Care & Occupational Medicine. Results are available in 3 to 7 days and this test is administered by Advanced Urgent Care & Occupational Medicine.

All of the COVID-19 tests use the most modern and accurate technology. If you need a test for work, school, travel, or surgery we suggest looking into which test will be accepted for your purposes.

When scheduling, please select consent to text or email. This will ensure you receive your results when they are ready. Schedule your rapid test by clicking here. If you are looking for your COVID results, please click here to read our how-to guide on how to access.