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How does a rapid antigen test work?

by Julio Santos November 23, 2021

COVID-19 has remained a long-standing topic in our society to the extent that it has altered everybody’s long-term plans, making the whole world standstill. We’ve had to restructure things to adapt to the new normal and have been forced to reassess our priorities. As a result, we’re always watchful for new developments, scientific advancements, and solutions. One of the most recent tools to help combat the spread of the virus has come in the form of at-home COVID tests.

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These are antigen tests that, unlike the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) ones, are quicker and portable. Now it’s time to see if this new way of COVID testing is all that useful and effective. How does a rapid antigen test work? How to use it? How reliable is it?

How is the rapid COVID test different from the PCR?

A reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction test (also known as RT-PCR test or just PCR) is able to detect viral RNA in the body before it even begins to show any symptoms, whilst a rapid COVID test is used to spot viral proteins (antigens) in the organism. Antigen tests can be done right when you need them, and the results are available within minutes. It is an at-home COVID test that bypasses most of the difficulties that a PCR would present, such as requiring a lab and the long waiting period (up to 3 days). It is also a faster and more accessible way.

With the continual rise in the number of newly-recorded COVID cases, and the need to keep things running smoothly, rapid COVID tests have come to be very useful.

How does a rapid antigen detection test work?

masked person in zen position


An antigen is capable of stimulating a response by the body cells that put up defence mechanisms against infections. When the virus is present in the human body it spreads its proteins (antigens), which send a signal and alter the behaviour of the white blood cells.

A rapid COVID test detects the presence of these antigens in the blood, thus uncovering the presence of the virus. The detection of antigens means that virus levels in the body are likely to be high, and the person could be infectious.

How to use an antigen COVID test at home

After understanding how a rapid antigen detection test works, it’s time for you to use an at-home COVID test kit, like the MyZone Test Kit.

four masked people (mona lisa in the background

  • First, insert a swab about 2.5 inches into your nostril deep to take the sample.
  • Then add 8 drops of extraction buffer into the extraction tube.
  • Leave the swab in the tube for about a minute for it to interact with the buffer.
  • After that, pour two or three drops from the tube onto the test card and wait for the results.

At-home COVID tests can be applied periodically —the more continuous, the better, so you’re able to trace possible contagion hotspots. Daily activities require us to interact with people from various places, elevating the chances of getting infected.

In a more crucial instance, the rapid COVID test should be done after contact with a suspected COVID-positive patient. These measures would help the community to stay on top of the situation, immediately isolate potential carriers, and prevent spread as much as possible. Learn more about what to do if you have COVID.

Access to a rapid COVID test makes it easier to achieve a possible reduction in the infection rate. And with an earlier diagnosis, people would be able to self-isolate faster, reducing the chances of major complications.

Precautions before and when using a rapid COVID test kit

masked person holding a bag


After getting your COVID test kit, here are some precautions to take note of:

  • Ensure that your kit has all the listed components.
  • Make sure to wash your hands before initiating the test.
  • Wait for 15 to 20 minutes after completing the test for the result.
  • Use each test just once.
  • Learn how to read your results.

Where to get a reliable antigen test kit?

Approved by Health Canada, the MyZone Home Test Kit is one of the most reliable test kits in the market right now. Take this at-home COVID test before and after any gathering or social function to prevent the spread of the virus and help fight the worldwide health crisis.

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