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Home News Society Types of corona virus tests: All you need to know

Types of corona virus tests: All you need to know

Last updated 3 weeks ago by Michael Darmanin

The corona virus testing capacity has sufficiently expanded in the Netherlands. Thanks to rapid testing and large and extra-large (XL) locations.

The Dutch government recently announced opening 10 large and 10 XL locations across the country. These are likely to be equipped with rapid testing. According to the reports, three will be in Amsterdam, two in Rotterdam, and one each in The Hague, Utrecht, Eindhoven, Zwolle, and Groningen. This means that people with symptoms will no longer have to wait for more than 24 hours to take a test.

The first XL test center opened earlier this week in Groningen.

The government is strategically planning to increase the testing so that people without the symptoms of the virus can also be tested. This will help in including the ones who were in close contact with the infected, travelers from COVID-19 hotspots, and the ones notified through the CoronaMelder app.

The cases in the Netherlands fell by almost one third this week. With the falling cases, testing capacities are also freed up. Plus, with the introduction of rapid testing, the number of PCR tests has come down. Furthermore, the government believes testing people with no symptoms may help in containing the outbreak faster. Reports say there is evidence that people may be infected a few days before the symptoms show up.

Here’s a quick overview of different types of coronavirus testing:

Photo credit: Mufid Majnun on Unsplash

PCR tests

The polymerase chain reaction, or PCR, is the test used in the Netherlands and worldwide so far. This is a molecular test for which the throat and nasal mucus are collected using a cotton swab. The sample is then sent to the laboratory for testing. This procedure involves making copies of a small part of the genetic material from the virus to detect its presence. It is a very high sensitivity test, thus considered to be the most reliable and accurate so far. This means it can also detect if someone is not carrying enough virus at some point. This test is used at the sites of Municipal Public Health Services (GGDs) and in hospitals. However, the result of this test takes at least 24 to 48 hours after the sample is taken. The government website states that a laboratory official can analyze around 600 PCR tests per day.

Rapid tests

The government believes these tests will help fighting the virus in a better way as they give the results faster, meaning less waiting time, and quicker detection of the virus to prevent its spread. Thus, the rest of the social and economic traffic can also continue alongside. These tests are collectively called ‘quick tests’ and they check the virus in a different, yet faster way. Though these tests are less sensitive than PCR, they are still expected to help prevent the spread in a substantial way. Some of these quick tests are:

LAMP test

The loop-mediated isothermal amplification or LAMP test, like PCR, also makes copies of the genetic material. This test is developed by Dutch research institute TINO and is claimed to have a 99 percent accuracy rate. According to the institute, this test is as reliant as PCR, but gives results much quicker, in around 45 minutes to one hour. The test requires different equipment for the analysis than the PCR, thus can be used as a complementary option in case of scarcity. According to health institute RIVM, this test is being tested by the GGD Amsterdam.

Photo credit: CDC on Unsplash

Antigen test

This test finds the presence of certain proteins of the coronavirus in nose and throat mucus. The antigens are basically some pieces of the virus, usually proteins, that can trigger an immune response in the body. This test gives the result in 15 minutes after the sample is analyzed in the laboratory. However, it is less sensitive than PCR, meaning someone who is carrying very little virus will receive a negative result, though that person may have COVID-19.

The health ministry in October approved antigen tests by two American companies – BD and Abbot. The Dutch government has now ordered kits from both the companies to cut the waiting time. The authorities from laboratories, hospitals, and RIVM are working together to find how this test can be used in addition to PCR, or in some cases replace the same. Though the test gives quicker results, its deployment takes more time. According to RIVM, if a laboratory official analyses 600 PCR tests per day, the same official can analyze only 60 antigen tests in a day.

This test gives accurate results if the person is positive. However, with a negative result, the test leaves out people who may have the virus, but may not have symptoms yet. The test then has to be repeated after a number of days depending upon the person’s reason for being tested. Thus, communication with these people is very important.

Breath test

A Leiden-based company Breathomix has developed a breathalyser test. The device was tested on 1,800 people and found that it can rule out the virus in 75 percent of the cases. Primarily, the device can quickly rule out people with no infection by detecting the virus particles in people’s breath. According to recent research, it was successful in sending back 1,350 people, around three-quarters of the participants. This test is believed to give some relief to busy officials as it takes only 45 seconds to conduct the test and get results. It may ease out the pressure on testing facilities, and people working there.

At present, people with complaints will be prioritized for testing at large and XL locations. The GGD is able to administer around 50,000 tests every day at present. The government wants to increase this capacity to about 90,000 per day by the end of November, and around 100,000 to 130,000 per day by the beginning of 2021.

Mamta Banga
Mamta Banga
A writer by choice and a reader by heart, I'm a storyteller by nature. I've got a knack for reading fiction, but I enjoy the adrenaline of writing about facts and real-life experiences. I've recently graduated from the University of Amsterdam and now trying to make a mark in the creative industry. I've extensive experience in working with various media organizations previously, including Microsoft and Reuters, for more than a decade. I am a traveler at heart who doesn’t like to touch and tick the bucket list, rather breathe and explore different cities and cultures.

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