Which is the gold standard of COVID-19 tests?


INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana State Health Commissioner Dr. Kristina Box’s own personal COVID-19 experience is shining light on a common misconception.

“Our original PCR test was a quick test, and they all came back negative,” said Box. “So, we were somewhat reassured by that.”

Rapid tests like the one Dr. Box and her family initially took aren’t as reliable.

“That’s the trade off,” said Dr. Christopher Doehring, Vice President of Medical Affairs at Franciscan Health Central Indiana. “You can get an answer in 15 minutes but you’re accepting the fact that it may not detect the virus.”

If you have been in close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19 or are symptomatic — like Box’s daughter and grandson were — health experts recommended to get a more accurate follow up test.

“Unfortunately, our lab tests came back positive,” said Dr. Box over the phone during Wednesday’s governor press conference.

According to the Indiana State Health Department the “gold standard COVID-19 test” is a nasopharyngeal PCR test.

It’s more sensitive.

Still, none of the tests are 100% accurate.

“I think it’s an important thing to know the limitations of the test and not to draw inappropriate conclusions about them,” said Dr. Doehring.

You’re encouraged to ask your doctor which COVID-19 test is appropriate for your situation while taking into consideration these tests haven’t been around for that long.

“There’s just a lot of variability and a lot of uncertainty about how accurate they really are and I think it will be awhile before we settle in on the appropriate tests,” said Doehring.

Doctors recommend you wear a mask and remain socially distant even if you test negative. That also goes for people who previously tested positive for the virus.

Doehring said they are finding people who are losing immunity and getting reinfected. There are also multiple strands of the virus.

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