COVID-19 testing in Australia – information for health professionals

Tests for COVID-19 aim to detect the causative virus, SARS-CoV-2, or an immune response to SARS-CoV-2.

The reliability of COVID-19 tests is uncertain due to the limited evidence base. Available evidence mainly comes from symptomatic patients, and their clinical role in detecting asymptomatic carriers is unclear.

The indications for conducting a COVID-19 test have changed through the course of the pandemic. See the current suspect case definition (link is external) and the testing criteria (link is external) on the Department of Health website.

The three main types of SARS-CoV-2 tests are:

  • Nucleic acid detection tests – to detect SARS-CoV-2 viral (Ribonucleic acid) RNA;
  • Rapid antigen tests – to detect antigen viral proteins from the SARS-CoV-2 virus; and
  • Serology tests – to detect IgM and/or IgG antibodies against SARS-CoV-2.

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