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What do COVID-19 tests tell us?

Testing for COVID-19 can give us some much-needed information to help understand and manage this viral infection on an individual, local, national and global level.


NPS MedicineWise has published a new article for consumers on COVID-19 testing which explains the different types of tests available in Australia and answers people’s frequently asked questions.

“The most reliable way to test someone for a current COVID-19 infection is with what we call a PCR test, which is the test being administered at the COVID-19 clinics around the country right now,” says Dr Jill Thistlethwaite, medical adviser at NPS MedicineWise and GP.

“A PCR test can detect the virus which causes COVID-19 if it’s present on a swab, usually taken from the back of your nose and throat.

“However, medical tests are rarely 100% accurate and there have been people with COVID-19 whose initial PCR test results were negative, so it is important to follow your health professional’s advice. This may still include a period of isolation even if your test result is negative,” she says.

Another kind of test is a serology test, also known as an antibody test, but at the moment these tests have a very limited role.

“A COVID-19 serology test uses a blood sample to help indicate if you’ve had a COVID-19 infection in the past. They are not used for diagnosis of a current infection,” says Dr Thistlethwaite.

To read the full article go to

Being informed and following the latest evidence-based advice are the best ways to protect you and your family during the COVID-19 pandemic. Ask your GP, pharmacist or other health professional if you have questions about your medicines and COVID-19.

If you have questions about your medicines you can also call Medicines Line on 1300 MEDICINE (1300 633 424) for the cost of a local call (calls from mobiles may cost more)

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