Recommendations for use of the diverse tests for detection of SARS-COV-2 infection

Enferm Clin. 2021 Feb;31 Suppl 1:S40-S48. doi: 10.1016/j.enfcli.2020.10.001. Epub 2020 Oct 14.
[Article in English, Spanish]


In the current crisis caused by SARS-CoV-2, there is a global need to know and combat the virus. One of the strategies is to track and diagnose cases in order to isolate and interrupt the epidemiological chain. Therefore, the aim of this article is to describe the different most used diagnostic tests and analyze their validity and indications for use according to scientific evidence and the main recommendations of scientific societies and reference organizations at national and international level. Since the beginning of the pandemic, the availability of tests has been subject to the conditions of the manufacturing market itself and to the guidelines set in each country. Among the most used types of tests, it is worth highlighting PCR, antibody detection tests (IgG and IGM) and total antibodies (Ab), also known as rapid tests, and tests for the detection of antigens in nasopharyngeal exudate or other upper/lower respiratory samples. For each of these tests, it is necessary to know their recommendations for use and the procedure for taking samples, which is essential to minimize alterations in the results due to poor handling. Likewise, it is necessary to determine the most appropriate moment for taking samples and their adequate interpretation of the results obtained, which must always be considered together with the patient's symptoms for clinical decision-making.

Keywords: COVID-19; Coronavirus infections; Diagnosis; Diagnóstico; Infecciones por coronavirus; Pruebas diagnósticas; SARS virus; SARS-CoV-2; Test; Virus del SARS.

MeSH terms

  • Antibodies, Viral / analysis
  • COVID-19 / diagnosis*
  • COVID-19 Nucleic Acid Testing / methods
  • COVID-19 Serological Testing / methods
  • COVID-19 Testing / methods*
  • COVID-19 Testing / statistics & numerical data
  • Diagnostic Errors
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulin G / analysis
  • Immunoglobulin M / analysis
  • Nasopharynx / immunology
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • SARS-CoV-2* / immunology
  • SARS-CoV-2* / isolation & purification
  • Specimen Handling / methods


  • Antibodies, Viral
  • Immunoglobulin G
  • Immunoglobulin M