False Negative Results in Rapid Tests

COVID-19 testing

A COVID-19 test is a tool that helps people in managing the virus during the pandemic. A rapid antigen test, or rapid test, is a quick, reliable, and cost-efficient method to diagnose COVID-19. However, these rapid tests are likely to yield false negative results.

How do rapid tests work?

First, the specimen is collected by rubbing a sterile swab inside both the patient’s nostrils. The collected specimen is then combined with a small amount of liquid buffer. Finally, the specimen-buffer mixture is put in a test cartridge. The duration of the test is usually 15 to 20 minutes.

Rapid tests try to search for pieces of coronavirus protein in the mixture. If enough of the viral protein pieces are found in the mixture, the test strip will display a positive result. It’s recommended that people test at least two times over a 36-to-48-hour period to increase the chances of detecting an infection.

Why are rapid tests used?

Rapid tests have been used to test for COVID-19 in congregate settings, such as dormitories, nursing homes, correctional facilities, and homeless shelters. With rapid testing, you can quickly identify people infected with COVID-19, and you will be able to prevent transmission by implementing infection prevention and control measures.

Nowadays, people use rapid tests to get quick results. Rapid tests can yield results in a matter of minutes, but those results are likely to be false positives or false negatives.

rapid test

What is a false negative test result?

A false negative rapid test result indicates that a person does not have COVID-19 when they actually do. It is not to be confused with a false positive rapid test result, which indicates the opposite—that a person has COVID-19 when they do not actually have it.

False negatives are not a rare occurrence. They also happen in different medical tests, such as pregnancy tests, alcohol tests, and drug tests.

Implications of getting a false negative test

A false negative result is significantly more consequential than a false positive. The worst thing that could happen to a person with a false positive test result is they will be quarantined. The consequences are greater with an infected person that tests negative (most likely due to being asymptomatic); they may not be required to quarantine, and so they can go back to their normal routine without knowing they run the risk of potentially infecting the people around them.

A more accurate method to test for COVID-19 is the PCR method of testing. Considered the gold standard of COVID-19 testing, Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) testing is a DNA amplification technique used in laboratories to turn small amounts of DNA into larger quantities for analysis. It’s a molecular test that displays active infection of SARS-CoV-2 accurately within days of exposure.

If you tested negative in the rapid test, but think you have the symptoms, you should get yourself tested again. You want to be more accurate the second time around, so it’s recommended that you use the PCR test.

Get your COVID tests at Dynamic Diagnostics

If you want to be sure you are not infected with COVID-19, you can visit any of the 50 testing locations of Dynamic Diagnostics US. We are a Chicago-based, veteran-owned testing company that offers free COVID-19 PCR and rapid testing with the mission of helping prevent the spread of the virus. Give us a call at +1-800-601-6561 and be confident with your test result.


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