Difference between Antibody Test and Swab Test

The detection of antibodies in the blood is done with an antibody test. To collect a sample for further analysis, such as a nucleic acid or antibody test, a swab test can be performed.

What is Antibody Test?

Immunoglobulins, also known as gamma globulin proteins, are the building blocks of antibodies. Vertebrate blood and other bodily fluids include antibodies. They aid vertebrate immune systems in recognising and eliminating pathogens. This is why detecting antibodies in the blood is what an antibody test does.

The human body naturally generates antibodies for self-defense, however vaccination may be used to artificially increase antibody production. Testing for certain antibodies in the blood can reveal whether or not a person has been exposed to a particular virus or infection. The test only reveals whether or not the subject was previously infected, not whether or not they are now sick. A previous infection with SARS-CoV-2, for instance, is evidenced by a positive result for COVID-19 antibodies.

What is Swab Test?

A swab test is performed by collecting a sample from the back of the throat or nostrils to identify the presence of a certain infection.

  • A breakdown of the testing procedure − The technician will use a clean swab that is about 6 inches in length. A sample is taken by inserting the swab into the back of the nose or mouth and twisting it several times. After removing the swab, the sample is put through some sort of analysis. Swabs used for the purpose of diagnosing COVID-19 are often examined using RT-PCR techniques. For strep throat testing, an antigen test is run on the swab taken from the back of the patient's throat.

  • For what kinds of diseases is it effective − Testing for Streptococcus, the bacteria that causes strep throat, is commonly done using a throat swab. It's also a common way to collect a sample for lab testing of coronaviruses. An antibody or nucleic acid test is then performed to determine the presence of COVID-19 in the sample.

  • Advantages − Because swab testing is simple, quick, and does not require any specialised tools or facilities, it may be performed in the comfort of one's own vehicle. This has led to the proliferation of COVID-19 drive-up stations in a number of nations.

  • Disadvantages − Because swabs are obtained from the back of the throat and the nose, the test might make a person feel uneasy and cause them to gag.

Differences: Antibody Test and Swab Test

The following table highlights the major differences between Antibody Test and Swab Test −


Antibody test

Swab test


To identify the presence of a specific antibody is the goal of an antibody test.

A swab can be used to collect a sample from the inside of the mouth or nose to check for the presence of bacteria or viruses in a swab test.

Pathogens tested for

Antibody tests can identify dangerous microorganisms like HIV or the COVID-19 virus.

A swab test can detect the presence of bacteria like Streptococcus or viruses like COVID-19.


Unlike tests that rely on nucleic acid, antibody tests don't require amplification of the target sequence.

A swab test has the advantage of being faster and less invasive than getting a blood sample at a clinic.


Antibody testing has lower diagnostic sensitivity and specificity compared to other methods like real-time polymerase chain reaction (RT- PCR).

The patient may experience discomfort and nausea after a swab test, and further testing may be required to identify the offending bacterium.


The presence of a pathogenic organism may be quickly and easily diagnosed using an antibody test. Since swabbing is not a direct means of identifying infections, extra testing is required.