PCR Covid Testing in Austin: Nasal and Saliva Options

Austin Rapid Test has a variety of Covid test types available for our customers, and can administer each of them from the safety and convenience of your home or office. Some tests have different names used for the same or similar tests, so it can all be very confusing when researching the type of Covid test you need or where in Austin you can find a specific type of Covid test.

This page is dedicated to one of the diagnostic tests we provide: the polymerase chain reaction ("PCR") test.

diagnostic test can show if you have an active coronavirus infection. Currently there are two types of diagnostic tests – molecular tests, such as PCR tests, that detect the virus’s genetic material, and antigen tests that detect specific proteins from the virus. 

"Molecular Tests" are also known by other names/terms such as viral tests, nucleic acid amplification tests (NAAT), RNA tests, and PCR tests. In fact, the PCR Test is a type of NAAT test.

Different Types of PCR tests

Yes, there are different types of PCR tests, though most websites don't necessarily differentiate them and simply call them all "PCR" tests. With said, there is the standard PCR, RT-PCR, Hot Start PCR, qPCR, and RT-qPCR.

Some people are looking specifically for a RT-PCR test in Austin due to certain travel destinations requiring that specific type of PCR test. The "RT" stands for "reverse transcription" which indicates a step in the process of this type of test.

At Austin Rapid Test, we offer the RT-PCR Covid test and our nurses can administer the test by either a nasal swab or by collecting your saliva.

Like our Nasal swab PCR test, the Saliva Covid test needs to be sent to a lab for processing. Right now, it is sent to a specialty lab slightly further than our nasal PCR test lab, so it occasionally takes a little longer to get results back for the saliva covid tests.

Our partner lab has guaranteed a turnaround time on Saliva Covid tests of 72 hours, though they tend to get us the results faster than that. Our nasal PCR test results are often returned in less than 24 hours but are guaranteed to be provided in no more than 48 hours.

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Is the Accuracy of the Nasal Swab PCR Covid Test Higher than it is with the Saliva PCR Covid Test?

Since the early days of the pandemic, clinicians and researchers have been looking for alternatives to nasopharyngeal swabs due to the discomfort that many people experience with this specimen collection method.

An accurate identification of respiratory viruses is critically affected by the source of clinical specimens. While several studies on up to 15 common respiratory viruses suggest that the use of nasopharyngeal swabs provides a higher sensitivity than that of nasopharyngeal washings or oropharyngeal swabs, this is not necessarily the case for SARS-CoV-2, as the infectivity and the predilection for transmission may differ significantly between viruses.

Currently, the available data comparing the sensitivity for SARS-CoV-2 detection using nasal, pharyngeal, or oral swab are very limited. One study from a Chinese group examined 213 hospitalized SARS-CoV-2 patients with a total of 205 oropharyngeal and 490 nasopharyngeal swabs at various time points of disease course. They found that nasopharyngeal swabs have overall higher positive rates (53.6%-73.3%) than oropharyngeal (throat) swabs (11.1%-61.3%), regardless of whether the patients were in mild or severe disease conditions.

Since saliva is easily collected and clinically informative for disease detection, the consideration that maximizes the benefit of using saliva as a diagnostic fluid deserves more attention. Researchers found that the agreement between the saliva and swab administered through the mouth was 93%, and that sensitivity was 96.7%. The swab administered through the nose and saliva had a result agreement of 97.7%, with sensitivity of 94.1%.

This is a rapidly moving research topic and the current evidence is not peer-reviewed and, therefore, is still far from leading to a solid conclusion. In other words, it is still too early to fully determine if the accuracy of Saliva PCR tests and Nasopharyngeal PCR tests is significantly different.

As always, determining which test is best and most appropriate for any individual is a decision best made with the guidance of your healthcare provider.