Most of the testing about which we hear is what is referred to as molecular testing in which reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (“RT-PCR”) technology is used to test for the presence of SARS-CoV-2 (the name of the actual virus that causes the disease, COVID-19).
The other type of testing – serological - detects our immune system’s response to the viral infection by measuring our antibodies to SARS-CoV-2.
Using both tests, we can most effectively detect infection whether it be in the early or late stages, and whether or not signs and symptoms of COVID-19 are or were present.
Which Should You Choose?
If anyone believes he or she has recently (within the last 2 weeks) been exposed to SARS-CoV-2, then it is appropriate to use molecular (RT-PCR) testing for virions (actual virus particles) AND serological testing for IgM/IgG antibodies. But, if in hindsight, you think that that sore throat and sniffles in January (there are recent reports that suggest it was possible that SARS-CoV-2 infections were present as early as November 2019) might have been a mild case of COVID-19, then serological (IgM/IgG antibodies) testing is appropriate and a consideration.
If You Don't Have Symptoms, Why Should You Test?
We know that approximately 81% of those infected with SARS-CoV-2 suffer mild to moderate symptoms, and, Dr. Anthony Fauci recently stated that as many as 50% of those infected are unaware that they have been. And, we know that once infected, based upon what we know so far about this virus and other viruses, it is very unlikely for anyone infected to be re-infected within the coming months and possibly years. That’s pretty important in determining one’s risk of becoming infected and transmission of infection in the coming months – for each individual as well as the community.
Some European Countries Have Begun Testing
Some European countries have begun testing its citizens to determine who can return to work and resume relatively normal activities. Citizens who test “positive”, and therefore have immunity against SARS-CoV-2 are allowed to return to work and are free from stay-at-home and social distancing restrictions and directives. Dr. Deborah Birx, the coordinator of the White House coronavirus task force, has called such tests "critical", and, immunologist Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, stated that this testing is “going to be important when you think about getting people back into the workplace”.