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Essentia Health expert differentiates COVID-19 tests

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DULUTH, MN-- As COVID-19 cases continue to spike across the state, and with the many ways to test for the virus, we wanted to get a better understanding of which test is most reliable.

First, health experts say we need to understand the two ways they test for the virus.

"So, we have antigen testing and we have PCR testing otherwise known as molecular testing," said Essentia Health's laboratory business operations director, Jeff Radle.

Antigen testing looks for proteins of COVID-19.

PCR or molecular looks for genetic material that makes up the virus in our systems.

"Right now, saliva and those swabs can be run on the PCR methods, and typically swab only specimens are what's used on the antigen testing," said Radle.

Radle adds its facilities and the testing site at the DECC offers molecular testing.

Results for those tests take at least a day.

The testing site at the University of Wisconsin-Superior's offers Antigen, which is newer to the scene.

Those offer results in 15 minutes.

"With the molecular testing the accuracy rate with those is in the 90 percentiles, the antigen testing is typically in the mid-'80s."

Radle adds there are factors that can lead to false-positive or false negatives.

"The specimen itself, the time of collecting the specimen if it's collected too early on in the disease process, if the specimen is not kept at the right temperature or if it's compromised any time,' said Radle.

Radle adds in the end, it's up to the patient.

"It almost kind of comes down to patient preferences"

Essentia just rolled out a new way to request a COVID-19 test.
You can log on to your MyHealth account and request one from there.

Lyanne Valdez

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