Unlike molecular/PCR tests, antigen tests work very quickly – utilizing a similar technology to pregnancy tests (lateral flow) that can deliver negative results in roughly 15 minutes or less. They are also relatively low cost. The combination of these two factors makes antigen tests more scalable and more suited for rapid testing than the traditional laboratory performed test types and therefore likely more suitable for testing in the community and in remote regions. This could also make antigen tests more amenable to point-of-care use – i.e. at smaller formal gatherings and events.
Antibody tests, or serology tests, look specifically for antibodies against viruses like SARS-CoV-2 to determine if there was a past infection. A sample from the patient is tested to determine if antibodies are present, which are critical for the body to fight off an infection. Antibody tests carry a ton of potential in terms of COVID-19 immunological research and public health as they have the potential to clarify an individual’s immune status.