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What is the difference between a PCR Test and a Lateral Flow Test

There are two main types of test currently being used to detect if someone has COVID-19: PCR: polymerase chain reaction tests LFD: lateral flow device antigen tests, also known as rapid lateral flow tests

PCR Tests

PCR tests detect the RNA (ribonucleic acid, the genetic material) of a virus. It takes some time to get the results because PCR tests are usually processed in a laboratory.

PCR tests are the best way to diagnose COVID-19 infection in people who have symptoms and who also may require treatment. Full guidance can be found here.

LFD Tests

LFD tests detect proteins in the coronavirus and work in a similar way to a pregnancy test. They are reliable, simple and quick to use and are very good at identifying people who have high levels of coronavirus and are most likely to pass on infection to others. When rates of infection are high, it is very likely that people with a positive LFD test result have COVID-19.

LFD tests can be taken by people at home (self-reported tests) or under the supervision of a trained observer (observed testing). LFD tests are mainly used in people who do not have symptoms of COVID-19. If you take an LFD test and the result is positive, you should report the result and follow this guidance.