What is the COVID-19 PCR diagnostic test?

The COVID-19 nasal swab PCR test is an accurate and dependable method for diagnosing COVID-19. A positive test result indicates the presence of COVID-19. A negative test result indicates that you likely did not have COVID-19 at the testing time. If you exhibit symptoms of COVID-19 or have been exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID-19, you should undergo testing.

What is a PCR analysis?

The acronym PCR stands for a polymerase chain reaction. This test detects genetic material from a particular organism, such as a virus. If you own a virus at the time of the test, the test will detect its presence. The test could detect viral bits even after the infection has resolved.

What is a PCR test for COVID-19?

The polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test for COVID-19 is a molecular test that looks for genetic material (ribonucleic acid or RNA) of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 in upper respiratory samples. Using PCR, scientists amplify small amounts of RNA from specimens into deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), duplicated until SARS-CoV-2 is detected. The PCR test has been the gold standard for COVID-19 diagnosis since its approval in February 2020. It is accurate and trustworthy.

Who should undergo COVID-19 testing?

If you exhibit any of the following symptoms, your healthcare professional may recommend a test for COVID-19:

  • Fever or shivering.
  • Cough.
  • Breathlessness or trouble breathing.
  • Fatigue.
  • Body or muscle aches.
  • Headache.
  • New taste or smell loss.
  • Painful throat.
  • Congestion or nasal discharge.
  • Sickness or vomiting.
  • Diarrhea.

Not all people infected with COVID-19 exhibit symptoms. And not all sick individuals exhibit all of the above symptoms. Even if you’ve been vaccinated, you should contact your healthcare practitioner if you feel ill during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The COVID-19 PCR test involves three essential steps:

A healthcare professional collects nasal samples using a swab to gather respiratory debris. A swab is a long, flexible stick with a soft tip inserted into the nose. There are various nose swabs, including nasal swabs that collect a sample from inside the nostrils and nasopharyngeal swabs that gather samples from deeper into the nasal cavity. Either swab type can gather material for the COVID-19 PCR test. After collection, the swab tube is sealed and sent to a laboratory.

When a laboratory scientist obtains a sample, he or she isolates (extracts) the genetic material from the remainder of the sample.

In the PCR process, specific chemicals, enzymes, and equipment called a thermal cycler are utilized. Each heating and cooling cycle increases the genetic material in the test tube (amplifies). After many cycles, millions of copies of a small piece of the genetic material of the SARS-CoV-2 virus exist in the test tube. If SARS-CoV-2 is found in a sample, one of the compounds within the tube emits a fluorescent light. After sufficient amplification, the PCR machine can identify this signal. Using specialized algorithms, scientists interpret the signal as a positive test result.

What do the results of COVID-19 PCR tests mean?

A positive test result indicates that SARS-CoV-2 infection is likely present. This could be due to an asymptomatic illness, but if symptoms are present, this is COVID-19. Most people have mild illnesses and can heal without medical attention at home. Contact your doctor if your symptoms worsen or if you have any questions or concerns.

A negative test result indicates that you likely did not have SARS-CoV-2 infection when your samples taken. However, it is possible to have COVID-19 without the test detecting the virus. This might occur, for instance, if you were newly infected but have no symptoms yet, or if you have had COVID-19 for more than a week before being tested. A negative test result does not guarantee safety for any time; you can exposed to COVID-19 after your test, become infected, and transmit the SARS-Cov-2 virus.

If your test is positive, you should consult your healthcare professional, stay at home, and avoid contact with others. If your test is negative, continue to take precautions against contracting the COVID-19 virus. Learn more about what to do if you test positive for COVID-19 and how to prevent infection.

How quickly can coronavirus test results obtained?

You should receive your test results within 24 hours of sample collection, though it may take a few days if the sample must travel to the laboratory.

How long do you remain positive for COVID-19 after infection?

Due to the high sensitivity of the PCR test, even minute amounts of viral material can be detected. This indicates that the test can detect SARS-CoV-2 virus pieces even after you have recovered from COVID-19 and are no longer contagious. If you have had COVID-19 in the distant past, you may continue to test positive even though you cannot transmit the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

In immunocompromised patients, a prolonged infection can develop when they shed infectious viruses for months. Moreover, healthy individuals can become reinfected. If you test positive for SARS-CoV-2 but believe you have recovered from COVID-19, please consult a healthcare professional.

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