The Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics (RADxSM) initiative at NIH is accelerating development and distribution of COVID-19 tests across the country.
Get answers to some common questions about COVID-19 testing and learn more about how NIH is supporting the development of new and better tests to detect SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
Understanding COVID-19 Testing
If you have COVID-19 symptoms and want to get tested, contact your healthcare provider first. Your state health department’s website may also have information on local testing.
A viral, or diagnostic, test looks for current infection. There are two types of viral tests:
The antigen test (also called the “rapid test”) gives results in as little as 15 minutes. You are more likely to get a false negative result from the antigen test. If you have symptoms but get a negative test result from the antigen test, your doctor may give you a molecular test to confirm the results.
The molecular test can take up to a week to provide results.
An antibody test is designed to tell you whether you had an infection in the past.
A nasal swab is still the primary way to collect a sample to test for COVID-19. However, in some locations, a saliva sample can be used instead. Check with your healthcare provider about the options in your area.
Since April, NIH has moved quickly to support expansion of fast, accurate testing methods to help save lives and prevent further spread of COVID-19. Through its RADx initiative, NIH issued a challenge to the nation’s inventors and innovators to develop safe and easy-to-use tests for COVID-19. NIH has awarded nearly half a billion dollars in manufacturing contracts to help rapidly scale up the United States’ testing capacity.