You've likely heard a lot about PCR testing as businesses and schools get back into full-swing. Although PCR may sound complicated, it really isn’t. PCR is considered the “gold standard” for COVID-19 testing and with a 99.5% accuracy rate, it’s quickly becoming the go-to for schools, businesses, and even travel. So why is this type of testing right for your business? Let’s find out.
RT-PCR stands for Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction and this process creates a DNA polymerase sourced from an RNA sample-based template.
So what does that actually mean? What we are doing is trying to find out if your sample contains the virus’s genes. We do that by multiplying all your samples creating millions of copies to detect the viral sequence in your DNA sample.
This is because it makes the job easier to detect the virus when we have millions of samples when you only need one to detect if you have COVID-19. This is why PCR tests are highly accurate and how we are able to detect the virus even before any symptoms start to show!
First, a sample is collected with a sterilized swab. The swab is placed in your nose to collect a sample for testing. Then, your sample swab is placed into the solution-filled vial and fitted before being secured in a vial.
Understanding how PCR testing detects COVID-19 doesn’t have to be difficult either.
Once brought to the lab, the sample is quickly brought into a thermocycler machine where the sample is repeatedly heated and cooled to promote replication. These replicated strands are then magnified and observed to find any present sequences of SARS-Cov-2.
Although that sounds complicated, try imagining half a ladder that’s missing the other half. Now if you want to build the ladder, you have to fit the ladder with the right pieces so that your ladder can be whole again. That’s exactly what happens in the solution as there are “probes” that attach themselves to create this “DNA ladder.” Now during this entire process, there are “scanners” to detect if there are any virus genes. If it does detect them, then it duplicates it creating more samples of the virus genes.
The reason why we create more copies of the virus genes is so that it’s easier for the instruments to detect if the sample has COVID. This is also the reason why it is a very reliable method of testing for COVID.
Despite the complicated procedure for reverse transcriptase, the PCR test provides a 99.5% accuracy rate and is accepted in most institutions and organizations. PCR testing outperforms the reliability of antigen tests, which sport a false negative rate dependent on varying viral load on cell surfaces (i.e. an inconsistent indicator).
False negatives occur when the results of a test report ‘negative’ in an actual positive case. This can occur either due to user error or (much less commonly) an error in the equipment.
Unlike antigen tests, you can detect if someone has COVID before they have symptoms – which is critical when there’s a potential close-contact event in a business or school.
The downside, however, is that consumers can’t buy a take home PCR test kit and results aren’t as immediate as their rapid antigen counterparts as PCR can take up to 48 hours.
Hopefully we’ve made more sense of this test type. If not, let us know in the comments if you have any questions about PCR testing or COVID-19. Alternatively, you can email us at email@example.com.
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