Do I have covid or flu? This is how the new combination tests work

by Lorraine Williamson
covid or flu

MADRID – At this point in the pandemic, it is not easy to distinguish between a Covid infection, the flu or the common cold. That is why the new self-tests in Spain have four lines instead of two. 

It is the first autumn-winter without the mandatory masks in most places, except health centres, pharmacies and public transport. Mucus, discomfort, cough or fever will make us doubt. Is it just a cold, or the flu? Or am I infected with Covid? There will be few people who haven’t taken a test at some point. 

Combination Tests 

Antigen tests serve to detect an active infection because they identify the presence of virus proteins. The new combined tests enable the diagnosis of SARS-CoV-2, influenza A virus and influenza B virus. Although concomitant infections are not the most common, the combination tests also indicate whether they are present or not. 

Related post: Spain starts fourth dose of covid-vaccination in September 

The combination test is a nasal test. In other words, there is no need to go as deep into the nose with the test stick as before. Two centimetres in the nostril is enough. Even for children, it is easy. 

The basis is the same as that of the antigen tests that we already know against the covid-19 virus. They are based on antigen-antibody interaction. In this case, these tests detect a specific part of each of the viruses. 

The viruses, SARS-CoV-2 and the flu are very different. One is a specific type of covid and the other is a flu virus. That is, their morphology and the proteins that make up these viruses are different. 

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A protein of the coronavirus is the S, the Spike. That protein is a foreign agent to the organism, which is known as an antigen. When that protein with the virus enters our body, the immune system tries to attack it. Therefore, that protein, which is the antigen, will have a special affinity for a specific antibody. If we put that specific antibody in these tests after taking a sample with a swab, it will stick to the specific antibody. 

The same thing happens with the flu virus, only the antibody made for it is aimed at a different protein. In this case, two types of proteins that are also part of the exterior of the virus, are hemagglutinin and neuraminidase. 

For example, in the same test, on the same “patch”, different antibodies can be placed that “capture” these viruses, which are also different. 

New corona wave on the way? 

The latest health report on Covid-19 in Spain was made public on Tuesday. While the data is not yet alarming, according to health experts, all indicators of the pandemic are rising. These are hospital admissions, ICU admissions and incidence. The virus incidence has risen five points since Friday. The highest increase in incidence since early July. Hospital admissions rose after the spectacular drop in the previous report. There are currently 2,332 people hospitalised with Covid in Spain. In addition, 14 people are in intensive care. In total there are 143 patients with covid. 

It is the first time since the beginning of the summer that the three basic indicators of the pandemic have risen. To know if we are at the beginning of another covid wave, we have to wait for the following reports to see if the trend continues. In terms of incidence, the start of a new curve is consolidating. It rose in the last four reports. 

The autonomous communities have reported 8,761 new cases of coronavirus. That brings the total number of people infected with Covid-19 to 13,412,263 since the start of the pandemic. As for those who died from Covid-19, 37 have been reported in the past week. As a result, the death toll from the coronavirus in Spain rises to 114,084 people. 

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