When it comes to testing for Covid 19, you can either use a PCR swab test or a rapid antigen test. Each of these tests detects a different part of the virus, and how it works influences the test’s speed as well as the relative accuracy.
Even though PCR tests are extremely accurate, they require special lab equipment, such as a PCR heating machine, and can take hours or days to perform. The first step for either kind of test is to get a sample from the patient, which can be a nasal swab or a bit of saliva.
For PCR tests, the next step will be amplification of genetic material so that even a small amount of coronavirus genes in the patient’s sample can be detected. PCR test is done using a technique known as a polymerase chain reaction. A health care worker will take the sample and treat it with an enzyme that converts RNA into double-stranded DNA. The DNA is then mixed with a solution that contains an enzyme known as a polymerase and heated, which causes the DNA to separate into two single-stranded DNA pieces.
The temperature is lowered, and polymerase, with the help of a small piece of guide DNA called a primer, binds to the single-stranded DNA and copies it. The primers make sure that only coronavirus DNA is amplified. The end result is two copies of coronavirus DNA from the original one piece of RNA.
Lab machines repeat these heating and cooling cycles 30 to 40 times, something that doubles the DNA until there are a billion copies of the original piece. The amplified sequence contains fluorescent dye that is read by a machine. Note that there are home testing kits UK that you can use if you don’t prefer to go to a healthcare facility.
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