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What is the Difference between RT-PCR and PCR?


What is a PCR test?

In biological terms, a Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test is used to amplify and detect genetic material present in a person’s saliva or nasal sample. Compared to other genetic amplification techniques, a PCR test is less time-consuming but effective.


The two most important genetic molecules detected using a PCR test are known as Deoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA) and Ribonucleic Acid (RNA). While many traditional genetic sequence detection tools are available in the market, a PCR test is found more effective, especially for detecting COVID-19.


The “RT” in RT-PCR tests stands for Reverse Transcription. When performing a lab procedure on RT-PCR samples, a nasopharyngeal sample is added to the test-tube. This substance develops numerous copies of the viral RNA that may be present in the sample.


Excess copies of a viral RNA results in a positive result. The RT-PCR tests is designed to prime and probe genetic molecules in a sample. An RT-PCR test also allows lab workers to get a clearer picture of the exact intensity of COVID-19 molecules.


Viruses such as the SARS-CoV-2 are RNA based. They can only be detected in a sample if there’s adequate infiltration of healthy cells. Once the virus comes in contact with healthy cells, it multiplies. COVID-19 can reprogram the cellular composition inside the human body and spread by copying viral RNA particles within seconds.


PCR tests are conducted to detect the presence of a viral RNA molecule. This genetic substance can be detected inside a human body before the Coronavirus has entered it. Therefore, detecting a viral RNA is a good way to tell whether someone has already been affected by the disease. This type of test is considered the gold standard in the times of Coronavirus.


The Sars-COV-2 is not simple RNA-virus. It’s constantly mutating and nullifying the test results obtained from traditional techniques. This is where the PCR comes into play.

The best part about a PCR test is that it can be conducted at home, in your car, at a laboratory, or clinics. Its turnaround time usually varies from one to three days. Early on, when the pandemic was at its prime, people faced extreme delays in results due to high demand.


What is a Real Time RT–PCR?

With rapid advances in the COVID-19 testing practices, medical researchers developed a real time RT-PCR test. The main difference between a traditional and real time PCR is that the latter is a nuclear-derived process. It detects the presence of a specific genetic molecule. The real time RT-PCR test identifies viral molecules in any kind of infectious pathogen.


This method was originally used to create markers for radioactive particles in the genetic materials. Now it has been refined to detect more complex viral RNAs. The real time RT-PCR test proved extremely effective in checking the current progress of Coronavirus inside an infected person.


The testing kits for real time RT–PCR were initially not accessible to general public. It was limited to healthcare workers and people employed at more vulnerable places. Many countries have used this test to detect complicated diseases like the Ebola virus and Zika virus. Thanks to mass production facilities, it’s being adopted for rapid COVID-19 detection at a national capacity.


Why Use Real Time PCR Test?


The real time RT-PCR test is more time-effective than traditional PCR test. It can provide prompt results with three hours of sample collection, allowing people to isolate if they’re COVID-19 positive. Ultimately, this leads to lower spread rate.


Along with the progression in health diagnosis, nucleic acid based COVID-19 detection techniques have become a rapid and reliable technology. It also has a lower potential of showing false positives and negatives. Since quick genetic mutation has been noticed in novel Coronavirus, the real time RT-PCR targets multiple genes to eliminate invalid results.

However, a real time PCR test can’t detect past infections. This is very important to monitor the development of virus in a community or a group of people. It can also help healthcare workers track and curb Coronavirus cases.


When to Get Tested for COVID-19?


Now that you understand the key differences between the traditional and real time PCR tests, here’s a list of all the signs that indicate you need to get tested for COVID-19 ASAP:

  • If you have one or more Coronavirus symptoms before or after the vaccination

  • If you’ve been in close contact with an infected person for over fifteen minutes

  • If you’ve participated in activities that might’ve put you at a risk of catching the virus

  • If you’re experiencing flu and fever like symptoms after a travel trip, an event, or a public gathering

For organizations, we strongly recommend a well-managed and controlled screening program. This shall include symptom tracking, rapid COVID testing, and implementation of standard SOPs before and after vaccinations.


You can contact us at Good Hearts Testing for reliable COVID-19 testing today.




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