What is the difference between an antigen test and a swab test?

Posted by Jack on December 14, 2022
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    If you've been thinking about getting a COVID-19 test but don't know which option to choose, then we're here to help. In this post we'll explain what antigen tests are and how they differ from traditional swab tests—and why both options may be helpful for patients who want to get tested for chlamydia or gonorrhea.

    COVID-19 Antigen test

    An antigen test is a blood test used to diagnose the common cold. An antigen test is also known as an IgG (immune globulin G) EIA (enzyme immunoassay) or immunofluorescence assay. The test measures the amount of antibody your body has produced in response to an infection. Antibodies are proteins that help destroy harmful germs and prevent disease by recognizing them and marking them for destruction by other immune cells like phagocytes, monocytes and macrophages.

    The doctor will take a sample of your blood using a small needle and syringe, then send it to a laboratory for testing. This process takes about 24 hours but usually results in the results being available within 48 hours after sending it off for testing at most labs.

    A positive result means you're likely infected with one of these viruses: rhinovirus A or B; coronavirus OC43; influenza virus A/B/C/Y/W; parainfluenza viruses 1-4; adenoviruses 40-41; enterovirus 71; herpes simplex virus 1 & 2; dengue fever virus 1-4 (these last two could actually indicate recent travel abroad).

    Swab test

    A swab test is a new way to detect COVID-19, which is the virus that causes the disease. It's non-invasive, so it doesn't require a blood sample or any other invasive procedure. It's also more convenient than an antigen test because it can be performed in the field without needing to bring someone into a lab or clinic for testing. This means that it could be useful during pandemics like the one we're currently experiencing with COVID-19!

    What is the difference between an antigen test and a swab test?

    An antigen test, also called a serological test, is a blood test that detects antibodies to COVID-19. Antibodies are proteins produced by your immune system in response to an infection. A swab test is a nasal swab test that detects the actual virus itself. Both tests are performed by your doctor’s office or clinic and can be ordered together as part of a standard flu panel for patients with symptoms of influenza-like illness (ILI).

    Antigen tests are more expensive than swab tests because they require multiple lab steps and specialized equipment not used in the simpler swab testing procedure. They also tend to have higher levels of false positives than swab testing methods because there are many different viruses that could cause your symptoms—and only one type of influenza virus leads to seasonal epidemics each year. However, antigen tests tend to be much more accurate than viral culture methods when it comes to identifying specific types of influenza viruses like H1N1pdm09; this means you can rest easy knowing that if your results come back positive for COVID-19 antibodies after an antigen test, chances are good they're correct!

    How are these tests used?

    Antigen tests are used to test for the presence of antibodies. Antibodies are proteins that help the body fight off foreign invaders, such as viruses and bacteria. If you have been infected with COVID-19, your body will produce antibodies against it. These antibodies can be detected through an antigen test.

    Antibody testing is more sensitive than swab testing but more expensive too. That's because it requires a blood draw and specialized equipment that detects these antibodies in the blood sample (not from mucus).

    Who is using these new testing options?

    • People who want to know if they have been exposed to the virus. If you’ve had unprotected sex or shared needles with someone who may be HIV positive, it is important for you to find out your status as soon as possible. Knowing your HIV status will help you take better care of yourself and avoid infecting others. It will also allow you to get health care sooner rather than later, which can improve your quality of life and reduce the cost of managing HIV infection in the future. If you are pregnant, knowing your status means that you can start treatment right away so that mother and child can be protected from transmission during pregnancy and delivery (if possible).
    • People who want to know if they are at risk of transmitting the virus by having unprotected sex with someone else who might already be infected
    • People who are at risk for transmitting HIV because they engage in high-risk behaviors such as sharing needles or having unprotected sex

    In this scenario, an antigen test is often preferred because it gives results within two weeks rather than four weeks like a swab test does — but both tests provide accurate results

    There are two new testing options that could help make COVID-19 test results more widely available.

    There are two new testing options that could help make COVID-19 test results more widely available.

    • Antigen test: This is a blood test for the presence of an antigen, COVID-19, in your blood and other body fluids. It can be used to confirm or rule out recent or past infection with the virus.
    • Swab test: A swab test involves collecting virus from inside your nose and throat using a cotton-tipped applicator inserted into one nostril at a time. The sample collected is then analyzed by laboratory technicians to detect whether the virus is present in the samples.

    Swab tests are being used by public health officials as they try to track infections across affected areas and determine where people may have been exposed during outbreaks so they can inform them about their risk of getting sick and encourage vaccination if needed.


    We think these new tests are great! They are just as accurate as the standard COVID-19 test, but they can be used at home with fewer steps. This means that people who don’t have access to healthcare providers or labs could use these tests to check for HIV in their own homes.

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