What are the different types of coronavirus tests?

Tests for the coronavirus in the U.S. fall into three broad categories

There are three broad categories of coronavirus tests in the U.S. Two diagnose whether you have an active infection, and a third indicates if you previously had the virus.

Here’s how they work:

GENETIC TESTS

These tests usually take hours to process at the lab so you likely won't get results back for at least a day, though a handful of rapid tests take about 15 minutes on site. Other genetic tests use saliva, instead of a swab.

ANTIGEN TESTS

A newer type of test looks for proteins found on the surface of the coronavirus, rather than the virus itself. These antigen tests are just hitting the market, and experts hope they'll help expand testing and speed up results.

A recently approved test from Abbott Laboratories takes 15 minutes and can be performed at schools, offices and other locations.

ANTIBODY TESTS

Antibody tests look for proteins that the body makes to fight off infections in a patient's blood sample. Antibodies are a sign that a person previously had COVID-19.

Scientists don’t yet know if antibodies protect people from another infection, or how long that protection might last. So antibody tests are mostly useful for researchers measuring what portion of the population was infected.

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