PCR Testing: The most accurate of all test products is a PCR or “Molecular” test. Analyzed in a CAP Accredited Laboratory with 24-72 hour turnaround for results.
PCR/Molecular tests detect the genetic material or nucleic acid present inside a virus particle. The FDA has authorized molecular tests for use in a clinical laboratory setting and authorized some for use in a POC setting. Most molecular tests are polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests, also called nucleic acid amplification tests (NAAT). In PCR testing, a machine located in a laboratory or at a POC, depending on the test, runs a series of reactions. These reactions first convert the virus’s ribonucleic acid (RNA), if present, into deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) and then amplify it (make millions of copies of the DNA); the test then detects this DNA. By running multiple amplification cycles, a PCR test can sense even low levels of viral genetic material in a patient’s sample, so these tests tend to be highly sensitive (especially laboratory PCR tests).