COVID-19 Special Column: Principles Behind the Technology for Detecting SARS-CoV-2, the Cause of COVID-19.Hawaii J Health Soc Welf. 2020 05 01; 79(5):136-142.HJ
Nationwide shortages of tests that detect severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) and diagnose coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) have led the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to significantly relax regulations regarding COVID-19 diagnostic testing. To date the FDA has given emergency use authorization (EUA) to 48 COVID-19 in vitro diagnostic tests and 21 high complexity molecular-based laboratory developed tests, as well as implemented policies that give broad authority to clinical laboratories and commercial manufacturers in the development, distribution, and use of COVID-19 diagnostic tests. Currently, there are 2 types of diagnostic tests available for the detection of SARS-CoV-2: (1) molecular and (2) serological tests. Molecular detection of nucleic acid (RNA or DNA) sequences relating to the suspected pathogen is indicative of an active infection with the suspected pathogen. Serological tests detect antibodies against the suspected pathogen, which are produced by an individual's immune system. A positive serological test result indicates recent exposure to the suspected pathogen but cannot be used to determine if the individual is actively infected with the pathogen or immune to reinfection. In this article, the SARS-CoV-2 diagnostic tests currently approved by the FDA under EUA are reviewed, and other diagnostic tests that researchers are developing to detect SARS-CoV-2 infection are discussed.