Covid 19 PCR Test All You Need To Know

What Is A PCR Test?

To detect genetic material from a specific organism, such as a virus, a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test is used. If you get infected at the time of examination, it detects the presence of a virus. The test may also identify virus fragments even if you are no longer infected. Since the COVID-19 pandemic plagued the world, all the global testing centers have used it to detect and curb its spread.

Today, you will learn more about the real-time reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test and how it has helped in COVID-19 detection, its efficacy, and accuracy.

What Is A COVID-19 PCR Test?

A COVID-19 PCR test gets used to diagnose people currently infected with SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. Because it is the most accurate and reliable test, the PCR test is considered the gold standard for diagnosing COVID-19.

The screening gets done with a nasal swab, and the laboratory test detects SARS-CoV-2 genetic material or RNA from a person’s upper and lower respiratory specimens in real-time. The technique combines reverse transcription of the RNA genetic material from the nasopharyngeal sample into DNA and amplifies these DNA targets using PCR in the laboratory. This amplification aids in determining the amount of a specific virus RNA in a specimen. In the case of COVID-19, the RNA detected is from the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2.

How Is COVID-19 PCR Test Done?

The COVID-19 PCR test consists of three crucial steps – sample collection, extraction, and PCR. A swab used to collect respiratory material found in your nose during sample collection gets sent to the lab. When a laboratory technologist receives the sample, they perform a process known as extraction, which isolates genetic material from it, including any viruses that may be present. The PCR step then employs special chemicals and a PCR machine known as a thermal cycler to trigger a reaction that produces millions of copies of a small portion of the SARS-CoV-2 virus’s genetic material.

Apart from these three, there are seven testing stages for COVID-19 RT-PCR testing.

1. Sample Collection And Transportation
Samples are collected by experienced and trained professionals and transported to testing laboratories in a safe and controlled environment. Individual specimens get labeled with a barcode, which allows the sample to get traced back to the individual from whom it got collected.

2. Sample Reception
Individual demographics, date and time of collection, location referring to the sample, and the number of smears received are all checked.

3. Accessioning
Samples then carefully get logged into the laboratory information system at the center.

4. Sample Preparation
Before testing, samples get prepared following the equipment manufacturer’s instructions.

5. Extraction
The RNA from the nasopharyngeal swab collection media gets extracted using a fully automated Viral Nucleic Acid instrument. The extracted RNA gets mixed with the reagents needed for the PCR test on a fully automated platform.

6. Amplification
For the detection of SARS-CoV-2, samples get loaded into specialized RT-PCR instruments.

7. Reporting
The results get communicated via an integrated laboratory information system. 

What Are The Precautions Taken At Each Stage?

When it comes to sampling collection, preparation, and extraction, the testing center needs to take proper precautions to ensure ideal conditions. Under every circumstance, it deems essential that the samples collected remain safe from external factors.

  • First and foremost, the temperature gets monitored throughout the transportation and testing/analytical phases – pre-analytical, analytical, and post-analytical. Specimens are transported to the laboratory in ice box with a triple packing system at low temperatures ranging from 2 to 8 degrees Celsius.
  • The samples are always handled, transported, and handled as if they were infectious.
  • Furthermore, the transportation process – double packing system and a third outer layer of packaging protects the packaging from physical damage during transportation. It also reduces the risk of contamination.

What Personal Protection Measures Do Lab Personnel Follow?

To reduce the chances of contamination and spread of the virus, the nurse, the lab technicians and other personnel follow specific protocols and personal protection measures.

  • Personal protective equipment, such as laboratory coats, aprons, gloves, scrubs, and N95 masks, surgical masks is always available with nurses and laboratory personnel.
  • When leaving the laboratory, lab personnel have to remove their lab coats and place them in their designated areas. They cannot wear the laboratory coats outside of the lab or designated areas within the laboratory. Any contaminated lab coat is removed and stored in a separate location.
  • Furthermore, the gloves provided are of the proper size: they completely cover the hands while allowing for flexibility and good grip. These always get disposed of in biohazard waste disposal bags, and they need to remove the gloves when leaving the work area.
  • Goggles are used for eye protection when performing activities that could result in a splash, such as transferring large volumes of liquids, performing maintenance on various instruments, de-capping specimen lids, and so on.
  • Finally, N95 fit tests are performed on all laboratory personnel to ensure that the seal between the respirator’s facepiece and the face is intact.

How Effective Are The PCR Tests For COVID-19?

Real-time PCR testing is the only Covid19 testing method recognized by the World Health Organization and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (RT-PCR test). It is the most accurate test for detecting the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

Because of PCR’s ability to generate millions of copies of a target sequence from a trace amount of DNA, a short sample of DNA can be amplified to a large enough amount to study in detail. As a result, PCR is a highly effective diagnostic tool.

Who Should Get Tested For Covid-19?

You may have coronavirus if you have symptoms like fever, cough, shortness of breath, tiredness, body ache, loss of taste or smell, headaches, sore throat, congestion, nausea, or a combination of these. Symptoms can appear between two and 14 days after exposure to the virus. Therefore, you need to get tested for COVID-19,

  • If you have COVID-19 symptoms
  • If you have been within six feet of someone who has tested positive for Covid-19 for 15 minutes or more. (Please keep in mind that some testing sites do not provide testing if you have been exposed but do not have symptoms)

How Does A COVID-19 PCR Test Work?

As mentioned before, a COVID-19 PCR test holds three critical stages of sample collection, extraction, and the PCR test. Therefore, by following these steps, you can get yourself tested, and the results will get shared with you within 20-48 hours after the test. Now let’s take a look at how the test works.

  1. The Nurse uses a swab to collect respiratory material found in your nose during sample collection. A swab is a long, flexible stick with a soft tip that gets inserted into your nose. Nasal swabs, which collect a sample immediately inside your nostrils, and nasopharyngeal swabs, which dig further into the nasal cavity, are two types of nose swabs. Both types of swabs are adequate for collecting material for the COVID-19 PCR test. The swab is sealed in a tube and sent to a laboratory after collection.
  2. When a laboratory technologist receives a swab, they execute a process called extraction, which segregates genetic material from the specimen, including genetic material from any viruses that might be present.
  3. The PCR step utilizes special chemicals and a PCR machine known as a thermal cycler to prompt a reaction that produces millions of records of a tiny segment of the SARS-CoV-2 virus’s genetic material. If SARS-CoV-2 is present in a sample, one of the chemical compounds generates a fluorescent light. This fluorescent light is the response, which the PCR machine detects, and special software is then used to interpret the signal as a positive diagnosis.

What Do COVID-19 PCR Test Results Mean?

COVID-19 PCR test results can indicate one of two things – that you have the virus in your body or you don’t (at the time of the test). Once you get the results, positive or negative, you need to take the necessary steps to avoid contact with others and remain isolated till you fully recover.

1. COVID-19 Positive PCR Test Result
A positive test result indicates that you most likely have COVID-19. Most people have minor ailments and can recover safely at home without the need for medical attention. If your symptoms worsen or if you have any questions or concerns, contact your healthcare provider.

2. COVID-19 Negative PCR Test Result
A negative test result indicates that you did not have COVID-19 at the time you took the test. It is possible to get infected with SARS-CoV-2 but not have enough virus in your body for testing. Keep in mind that a negative test does not guarantee your safety for any period. After your PCR test, you may well get exposed to COVID-19, become infected, and spread the SARS-Cov-2 virus to others.

If your test results are positive, consult your doctor, stay at home, and isolate yourself from others. If your test results are negative, you should continue taking precautions to keep yourself and others safe from COVID-19.

Benefits Of COVID-19 PCR Test

The effectiveness of these tests gets determined by a variety of factors. It includes the time since the onset of illness and the concentration of the virus in the specimen. Other factors like the sample collected from an individual, how it gets processed, and the precise formulation of the reagents in the test kits gets accounted too.

Let’s take a look at some of the benefits of the COVID-19 PCR test.

  • Minimally invasive – it uses nasal swabs, throat swabs, and tests of saliva or other bodily fluids for sample collection
  • Allows social distancing – while some molecular tests, including PCR, are essentially conducted at a hospital or clinic, swabs can also get collected from the patient’s car or at their home
  • Fewer false negatives – deep nasal swabs have fewer false negatives in comparison with other tests, such as throat swabs or saliva tests

COVID-19 PCR Vs Antigen Test

COVID-19 PCR test and the antigen test both fall under diagnostic tests. Diagnostic tests essentially indicate whether you have an active COVID-19 infection. The difference, however, lies in the testing procedure.

This test looks for the existence of the virus’s genetic material or strands as it breaks down. It is the most credible and precise method for detecting active infection.

Covid-19 Antigen Test
This test looks for antigens, which are protein fragments on the virus’s surface. Antigen tests are usually quick, taking only 15-30 minutes, but they are less precise than PCR tests. Rapid antigen tests are most accurate when used within a few days of the onset of your symptoms when your body has the most virus.

However, if your antigen test is negative, your healthcare provider or doctor may order a PCR test to confirm the negative test result.

COVID-19 PCR VS Antibody (Serology) Test

While the COVID-19 PCR test is a diagnostic test, an antibody (serology) test falls under another category. Let’s take a further look at the antibody (serology) test to understand it better.

COVID-19 Antibody (Serology) Test
This test determines whether or not you have had an immune response (antibodies) to the virus. It means you’ve had the virus, and your body (specifically, your immune system and antibodies) have launched an attack to combat it. These antibodies get detected by the test. It usually takes about a week after infection to develop enough antibodies to be identified in your blood. As a result, you cannot use this test to detect an active virus.

Where To Get COVID-19 PCR Test Done?

If you have COVID-19 symptoms, are already exposed to people who have symptoms or tested positive, you should get yourself tested immediately. However, you need to consult with your physician first. They will go over your symptoms and share the next steps with you.

Your doctor will place an order for a test or ask you to and notify you of the location where you can get tested. Keep in mind that if you have been exposed to the SARS-CoV-2 virus but do not have symptoms, you should contact the testing center first to ensure that you get tested.

How Accurate Is PCR Testing For Covid-19?

The main benefits of the COVID-19 PCR test are its accuracy and dependability. It is the most accurate COVID-19 detection test available. Currently, most countries globally are using this test to track patients with the virus to curb its spread. You can check if any testing center in your city offers this test and get yourself tested if you notice any signs and symptoms.

How Accurate Is Serology Testing For COVID-19?

Serology tests could aid in the fight against COVID-19 by assisting healthcare professionals in identifying individuals who may have developed an immune response to SARS-CoV-2.

For better information on the appropriate use of these tests, different healthcare bodies are conducting specific studies. They can decipher whether the presence of antibodies conveys a level of immunity that would prevent or reduce the severity of re-infection, as well as the duration for which your immunity lasts.

When To See A Doctor?

COVID-19 has spread across the world. So, if you notice the slightest of symptoms affecting you, reach out to your doctor or healthcare provider and seek the necessary treatment. Sometimes, you may be asymptomatic. However, if you have come close to someone who tested positive for COVID-19 recently, get yourself tested immediately. It’s better to remain safe in these uncertain times.

On the other hand, if you do not have any symptoms and maintain social distancing, make sure you continue to do so. It remains imperative that you tread with caution and keep yourself and your loved ones safe and healthy. 

Book COVID-19 PCR Test At Home In Dubai

If you reside in Dubai, show symptoms, or have met someone who tested positive recently, get in touch with us at Aims Healthcare. We promise to bring you the safest and the most reliable COVID-19 PCR test and results. Be it COVID-19 testing for travel or any other reasons, our DHA-certified expert team of doctors and nurses, along with safe diagnostic tools, will treat you with utmost care and caution.

Now, you can make this experience even more comfortable and safer for yourself and your family as we provide quality COVID-19 PCR testing at home in Dubai. Call +971 505 136 505 for a fast, reliable, and accurate COVID-19 PCR Test by Aims Healthcare at your home, hotel, or office.

Aims Healthcare

Aims Healthcare intertwines superior medical practices with accessibility of highly qualified medical professionals to yield exceptional patient care and clinical outcomes. We take medical care one step further by providing first-rate home healthcare and doctor-on-call services at your doorstep. We are available any time of day for you and every member of your family.