Faced with the COVID-19 pandemic, the world is discovering the technology of PCR testing. However, these tests can detect many more health issues than just the coronavirus. In fact, they are often used to identify cancers in order to enable doctors to plan the appropriate treatment for patients (and adjust them rapidly if need be). Let’s explain how these tests work by using the example of the coronavirus and let’s take a look at other applications they can be used for.
1. Coronavirus testing
The first step is to collect a sample, which is usually done by swiping a sterile swab at the back of a patient’s nasal passage. It needs to reach all the way to the intersection with the throat, where it absorbs secretions in a few seconds. Once the sample is collected, the swab goes into a tube for transport to the laboratory where it will get tested to determine if the sample is positive for the coronavirus.
The test consists of a technician extracting viral genetic material called RNA from the sample. Once this is done, he uses it to produce a complimentary strand of DNA that the PCR technique amplifies by making thousands of copies. The goal is to get a measurable result to identify (or not) the presence of the virus.
2. Multiple applications
The PCR method was developed in 1983 and has gone through large progress ever since. Today, manufacturers have made their system so performing that they can produce results within 2 hours and a half, like the Naica system workflow by Stilla. We will now take a closer look at some of the applications of PCR testing but if you would like to know more, you can find information at: https://www.stillatechnologies.com/applications/.
PCR is the most accurate way to detect HIV. They can show positive results just a few days after the person has been infected, and even before antibodies have been developed. They recognize HIV’s genetic material which is called RNA. It also works for other infectious disease such as STD’s like herpes, gonorrhoea or chlamydia, which it can detect as soon as the patient has contracted it. That is why it is so different than any other test.
PCR searches for and quantifies DNA mutations induced by tumours in the bloodstream. By using them as markers, doctors can react rapidly by assessing the response to treatment very early and changing protocol if the results are not what they expected. This testing method can precede the observation of a relapse through imagery by several months. This is important because saving time is crucial in saving a cancer patient’s life.