Laboratory evaluation of SARS-CoV-2 in the COVID-19 pandemic

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Laboratory evaluation of SARS-CoV-2 involves the detection of viral nucleic acid, viral protein antigens, and the antibody response. Molecular detection of SARS-CoV-2 is the only diagnostic test currently available in acutely or recently infected individuals. In contrast, serological testing is typically performed once viral RNA has been cleared and symptoms have resolved. This leads to some confusion among clinicians as to which test to order and when each is appropriate. While SARS-CoV-2 assays can suffer from poor sensitivity, all FDA authorized assays to date are intended to be qualitative. Serological tests have multiple assay formats, detect various classes of immunoglobulins, and have a distinct role in seroprevalence studies; however, the association with long-term protection remains unclear. Both molecular and serological testing for SARS-CoV-2 have complementary roles in patient management, and we highlight the challenges faced by clinicians and laboratorians alike in the evaluation and interpretation of the currently available laboratory assays.

Original languageEnglish
Article number101660
JournalBest Practice and Research: Clinical Rheumatology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2021


  • Analytical sensitivity
  • COVID-19
  • Clinical sensitivity
  • Molecular diagnostics
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Serology


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