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The Current Status of COVID-19 Testing, Transmission, and Immunity

The Current Status of COVID-19 Testing, Transmission, and Immunity

Sunday, September 13, 2:00 pm (ET)

Comprehensive Otolaryngology Track

Ken Kazahaya, MD, MBA


The onset of COVID-19 has triggered a significant challenge in the form of testing. Ken Kazahaya, MD, MBA, Chair of the AAO-HNS Infectious Disease Committee, will moderate a session covering the current status of COVID-19 testing, transmission, and immunity. Joining him for this Panel Presentation discussion will be Joel Selanikio, MD, Florian Krammer, MD, and Lisa Maragakis, MD.

While it’s a hot button topic that is rapidly evolving, Dr. Kazahaya outlined the three different kinds of tests currently available to test for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, as well as their respective levels of effectiveness. Dr. Kazahaya and his elite panel will also be discussing the transmission of the virus as well as community considerations following infection and what that may mean for vaccination.

Three Types of COVID-19 Testing 

  1. Molecular Tests

The reverse-transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) detects RNA from SARS-CoV-2. However, Dr. Kazahaya cautions that receiving a positive test result does not mean that the tested individual is contagious or still in the infectious phases of the virus. An individual may have a positive test long after they have recovered.

And while Dr. Kazahaya said the false-positive rate is low, “There are many molecular tests out here with false negative rates of as high as 30%.” He noted that there are also issues with adequate specimen collection.

  1. Antigen Tests

Antigen tests detect the SARS-CoV-2 spike proteins. “They have a lower sensitivity than molecular (RT-PCR) tests, but can have quicker turnaround times,” said Dr. Kazahaya. Results, while potentially less accurate, can be available in minutes.

  1. Antibody Tests

The antibody test, or serology test, is used to look for the presence of the SARS-CoV-2 antibodies to indicate past infection. But these may not appear for up to two weeks after the time of infection, said Dr. Kazahaya. He also noted that there are potential high rates of false-positive testing.

“Positive antibody tests may reflect infection with non-SARS-CoV-2 coronaviruses,” he said. “It’s not recommended to be used as the basis for diagnosis. [Physicians] should not be relying on testing alone to rule out infection.”


Which one should otolaryngologists be sticking with, then? Dr. Kazahaya said that combining symptom and contact questionnaires with molecular testing can provide a more accurate assessment of a patient’s COVID-19 status.

If you miss this live event, it will be available in the on-demand library of education content within 48 hours following the presentation.