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What is an antigen test?

by Julio Santos November 23, 2021

The human body is designed to build up a defence mechanism for any possible threat or foreign organism. For this, the possibility of detecting interactions between the body’s defence mechanisms and the foreign organism’s cells plays a key role in modern healthcare. Spotting the proteins and genetic matter that these interactions leave behind is the very concept that informs us about what is an antigen test and how a rapid COVID test actually works.

person taking covid test

What is an antigen test and how does it relate to coronavirus?

Medical researchers have worked on different ways to ensure that proper diagnosis is made so that specific diseases can be properly identified. Different methods have been advocated in the detection and confirmation of a suspected diagnosis. 

COVID-19 has caused the whole world to adapt to a new normal as it has affected the global population, with an increased mortality rate in immunocompromised individuals. These modern testing methods have been implemented to ensure that individuals with the infection are identified and readily isolated.

face masks hanging


As much as, antigen examination via rapid COVID testing is one of the essential methods used to screen for coronavirus nowadays.

COVID-19 presents without symptoms in some individuals though, making rapid detection very difficult for healthcare professionals. Thus, asymptomatic individuals have even more chances of spreading the virus throughout the population.

How can an antigen test detect the virus?

An antigen is a protein marker capable of eliciting an immune response in the human body. The rapid COVID test works based on detecting the interaction between the virus and the antibodies.

rapid covid test presented as a dish on a table


Antigens or their fragments are foreign proteins that get into the system and elicit specific body reactions, depending on the affected site and the state of the immune system.

Infections have specific antigens that provoke specific immune responses, for which it’s possible to differentiate and diagnose.

An antigen test identifies the presence of an active infection by detecting its relevant protein marker. In the case of COVID-19, the rapid antigen test detects the antigen on the outside of the SAR-CoV-2 virus (coronavirus), which results in respiratory illness in patients. The respiratory tissues affected make COVID-19 highly contagious as it spreads rapidly through air droplets.

What is the importance of an antigen test?

medical tools collage


Apart from having a system that detects a virus’ antigens, it is also very important to ensure quick results to reduce the contagion rate amongst the population.

A rapid COVID test is an amazing antigen test system that works within minutes to detect the presence of the virus. The golden standard in the detection of COVID-19 is the reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR), however, due to the insufficiency of the relevant tools used for this screening method, the antigen test method has been adopted for rapid diagnosis.

It is also important to note that the rapid antigen test is a qualitative screening method for the virus as it cannot ascertain the viral load, nor can it determine the prognosis of the infection. The rapid antigen test kit for COVID-19 comes in different labels depending on the manufacturer, however, they all contain a swab, test strip and a buffer socket.

How do antigen tests help prevent the spread of the virus?

youth standing alongside a "post covid life" poster


The primary function of a rapid COVID test is screening. Many untested individuals are carriers of the virus and are asymptomatic as well, making the spread of COVID-19 more difficult to trace. Rapid screening for the general population enhances early isolation measures and treatment. 

It has been established that for some individuals who have had bad prognoses, early detection of the virus would have helped in improving the treatment outcomes. Massive availability of the rapid test kit can promote better treatment outcomes and lessen the global crisis we’re facing. Quality of life is improved as early screening and detection give people better chances of survival.

Every individual should be able to access and try a rapid COVID test, even if just as an initial screening method. As for Canadian residents, everybody can purchase and get the MyZone Test Kits delivered to their home to put away any contagion suspicion and stay safe.

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