COVID-19: How molecular testing detects SARS-CoV-2

Testing is the best way to be sure that someone is positive for the SARS-CoV-2 infection. Along with measures like social distancing and self-isolation, quality testing is an essential part of efforts to contain and control the COVID-19 pandemic, which currently has no approved vaccine or disease-specific treatment.

Two criteria are paramount to broad testing programmes for SARS-CoV-2: throughput, meaning that laboratories can test high numbers of samples in a short time frame, and accuracy, which means a reliable test result. This can be achieved by analysing patient samples using polymerase chain reaction (PCR) technology. Here’s how testing for SARS-CoV-2 using PCR works:

The journey of your swab test

To diagnose an active infection with SARS-CoV-2, doctors can use PCR technology to test a patient's sample. Find out what happens to COVID-19 swab test samples!

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