What’s the difference between a PCR and antigen COVID-19 test? A molecular biologist explains

A healthcare worker collects a swab sample from a man to test for COVID-19

PCR tests and antigen tests are the two main ways to detect SARS-CoV-2. Image: REUTERS/Heo Ran/File Photo

Nathaniel Hafer
Assistant Professor, Program in Molecular Medicine, UMass Chan Medical School
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a picture showing two Rapid antigen tests
Rapid antigen tests – like the two seen here showing negative results – are much faster and easier to perform but are less sensitive than PCR tests. Image: Lennardywlee via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA

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