The COVID-19 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) is a test used in analyzing the specimen of the upper respiratory tract to identify the DNA or RNA of the COVID-19-causing virus called the SARS-CoV-2. The PCR technology used by scientists allows for the amplification of small amounts of RNA from specimens into DNA. In this process, replication occurs to a point where the presence of SARS-CoV-2 is detected. The reliability and accuracy of the polymerase chain reaction test have made it the most ideal for diagnosing COVID-19 since its authorization in February 2020.
Conducting the COVID-19 test
The PCR test for diagnosing COVID-19 involves some distinct steps. The first of these is sample collection. During this process, the healthcare professional utilizes a swab for collecting the patient’s respiratory substance inside the nose. While the nasal swabs often collect the needed sample inside the nose surface, the nasopharyngeal ones go deeper into the nasal cavity to collect the sample. Either of the swabs are ideal for material collection in the case of the COVID-19 PCR test. Once the collection is done, the material is sealed to ensure biosample stabilization before being sent to the laboratory.
Upon arrival at the laboratory, isolation of the genetic material is done. A thermal cycler machine along with special enzymes and chemicals is used during the PCR test. Each cycle of heating and cooling enhances the number of targeted genetic materials, resulting in millions of copies of the genetic material for the SARS-CoV-2 virus found in the test tube. If SARS-CoV-2 is detected in the sample, a fluorescent light will be produced by one chemical. When sufficient replication occurs, the PCR machine will identify the fluorescent signal. Special software is then used in interpreting the signal as positive.
Positive vs. negative results
In a COVID-19 PCR test, a positive outcome implies that there are chances the patient is infected with SARS-CoV-2. This may be a result of asymptomatic infection. Nevertheless, if you are experiencing the symptoms, then you have COVID-19. Some individuals showcase mild symptoms and are able to recover without seeking medical intervention. However, in the case of extreme symptoms, seeking medical intervention is always the best solution.
A negative outcome of the test implies that you were never infected by SARS-CoV-2 at the time of specimen collection. While that is the case, you need to note that there are chances you may have COVID-19 even with negative results. For instance, this could occur if you were recently infected but the symptoms do not yet show. Also, this could take place if you have had COVID-19 for over a week before testing. Therefore, you need to know that a negative test does not mean you’re safe. You could be exposed to the virus and infected even after testing negative.
Although the science behind COVID-19 PCR Testing is intricate, this article makes this process seem as simple as possible to help you understand what is involved. You may not need to grasp the scientific details of this testing process, but it’s essential to at least understand the basics.