Rapid Antigen Test: What Does It Detect?

Rapid Antigen Test

In the race to win over COVID-19 and prevent it from continually wreaking havoc on the human population, health institutes continue to develop drugs, vaccines and tests to make life go back to normal.

As for testing, antigen tests can help curb COVID-19 transmission by providing people, even those in remote areas, access, preparation and solution to prevention and healthcare.

The National Institutes of Health launched the COVID-19 testing drive as early as April 2020 when COVID-19 was in its primitive form.

COVID-19 and Rapid Antigen Test

The use of rapid antigen tests for the detection of infectious diseases is becoming more common and accessible. They involve immunologically testing a sample from an individual to see if it has been exposed to an infection, specifically the SARS-CoV-2, the virus that caused COVID-19.

Antigen tests can detect the presence of specific antibodies in conjunction with a longer, more laborious test that also determines if the body has ever encountered a particular virus or bacteria. 

Rapid Covid test kits for sale in Australia are useful when you need to know if someone has been exposed to an infectious disease quickly and without having to go through the process of taking a blood sample or sending other samples away for analysis. They’re also useful when time is of the essence, such as in emergency medical situations when immediate action is needed rather than waiting for long lab results.

Can a Rapid Antigen Test Detect Other Viruses?

Rapid antigen tests are not just for COVID-19. In the future, we may see more rapid antigen tests for other viruses, such as the flu or the common cold. 

The advantage of rapid antigen testing is that it can be done quickly and easily through at-home self-test kits or in a doctor’s office or clinic without the need for special laboratory equipment. This makes it ideal for use in outbreak situations when time is a factor.

Whilst rapid antigen tests are not currently available for every virus, some tests are already in use, such as those for Influenza A and B viruses. These tests work by detecting proteins on the surface of the virus particles. Antibodies to these proteins are produced by our immune system in response to infection with a particular virus. These antibodies in a sample can then be used to diagnose an infection.

Advantages of rapid antigen tests over other types of diagnostic tests: 

  • They are quick and easy to use
  • Results can be available within minutes 
  • Ideal for use in emergencies
  • Relatively inexpensive
  • Do not require special laboratory equipment
  • Widely accessible

The Importance of Widespread Testing

In the desire to return to normal, the conduction of rapid antigen tests has become more valuable and required. This is because we are given extra measures to be ready and protected against virus transmission. Imagine if you can immediately detect the virus if you are infected, what advantage do you have over the rest of those who do not have access to rapid tests?

In general, rapid antigen testing offer the following benefits:

  • Whether a person is infected or not, they can save a life.
  • Has a wider reach of the population to test.
  • Faster results and quicker actions (to minimise the spread).

Limitations of Rapid Antigen Testing

Although rapid antigen testing offers many advantages, it also has some limitations. Firstly, they are not always accurate. For example, false-positive results can occur, which means that the test indicates someone has been exposed to a virus when the subject does not have it.

Results may also yield false-negative results, which means the test does not detect the virus even though the person has been exposed.

Another limitation is that rapid antigen tests can only be used to detect viruses that cause respiratory infections, such as COVID-19, influenza and the common cold. They cannot be used to detect other types of infections, such as those caused by bacteria or parasites.

Finally, rapid antigen tests are only effective if people get tested within a few days of becoming infected with a virus. After this time, the levels of virus in the body may be too low for the test to pick up.

Despite these limitations, rapid antigen tests are a valuable tool for quickly identifying people who have been exposed to a virus. This can help to prevent the spread of infection by allowing people who have been exposed to self-isolate and seek medical treatment as necessary.

How Accurate Are Rapid Antigen Tests?

Because of shady results like ‘false-positive’, sometimes, it is difficult to trust rapid antigen tests. Even so, such results don’t verify the fallacy of the test just because the result is either negative or positive.

The reason it’s called a ‘rapid’ test is due to the speedy results—as short as 15 minutes—to determine if you are infected with the virus. 

In a rapid antigen test, your health professional or yourself will insert a cotton swab into your throat or nose to get samples of cells and mucus. The collected sample is placed on a strip that will change colour to say whether you have COVID-19.

The difference with antigen tests done in a lab is that the sample taken from you using a rapid antigen test may not be as many as those in the lab-based samples. That’s why at times, rapid tests may yield negative results. Such inaccuracy doesn’t mean rapid tests are not reliable forms of COVID-19 testing. It could also tell that the negative results mean you need to be more cautious and would call for a retest.

Rapid antigen tests can be a helpful tool in diagnosing infections quickly, but they should not be the only factor used in making decisions about your health. If you have been exposed to a virus, it is important to seek medical advice and get tested as soon as possible. 


Although rapid antigen tests may be less sensitive than PCR tests, the data from testing can be used as screening for asymptomatic people and easily isolate them if they are infected. Also, they are even more useful in congregate settings that require screening for COVID-19, such as facilities, shelters, nursing homes, dorms, multi-story tenements or housing and many more.

The goal is to prevent virus transmission, and only the rapid antigen test can offer immediate results when turnaround time is critical. Thus, even if any new virus variant comes out, the development of rapid antigen tests is revolutionary and integral to the medical field.

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