COVID-19: PCR Test vs Rapid Test Kit

Real-Time Reverse Transcription-Polymerase Chain Reaction (rRT-PCR)

Real-Time Reverse Transcription-Polymerase Chain Reaction (rRT-PCR), is a technique used to detect the presence of COVID-19 virus in patient’s body. This method is being practiced in the COVID-19 tests conducted at the laboratories of all government health facilities and also used by Pantai Premier Pathology too. Almost all tests currently being carried out in Malaysia are tested using a technique known as polymerase chain reaction or PCR. The swabs i.e., the samples obtained are used to match the genetic material captured on the swab with the genetic code of COVID-19. PCR amplifies the genetic material so that it becomes easy to detect. The ingredients of the PCR are generic however, an element of the test known as the primer (functions as hook); which is used to match the genetic material with the virus that causes COVID-19 is unique.


Rapid Test Kit (RTK)

In contrast, the Rapid Test Kit (RTK) technique which has been publicized as producing faster result, is actually detecting the antibodies produced by the host immune system against the virus. These tests would likely be less accurate than lab-based PCR tests because they looked for antibodies, rather than the virus itself. The result could be a false-negative if the test is taken at the wrong stage of a person’s illness. This may cause inaccuracy in diagnosing patient with COVID-19 at much earlier stage thus it is not recommended by the MoH. As the result generated by the RTK test may be questionable, it is advisable for the public to refrain from taking such test without proper consultation by medical practitioner.



  1. Medical Microbiologist, Pantai Premier Pathology
  2. Ministry of Health Malaysia

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