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Know All About The RT PCR COVID Test Technology

Know All About The RT PCR COVID Test Technology

Published by Programme B

The coronavirus pandemic has proven disastrous for human life. However, the tests for detecting coronavirus infection have helped save millions of lives by preventing the more dangerous symptoms and in providing initial treatment as well. The Covid-19 RT PCR (Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction) test can help in the real-time detection of coronavirus infection, which helps in the timely treatment of the symptoms. So, if you are experiencing some symptoms, perform fast and precise COVID PCR test near you.

While the test takes less time, it is also one of the most accurate methods for tracking, detecting, and studying the coronavirus.

Know More About the RT PCR Covid Test

The RT PCR Covid test can detect nucleic acids derived from the coronavirus in the lower and upper respiratory samples/specimens. The samples may include oropharyngeal or nasopharyngeal swabs, aspirates obtained from the lower respiratory tract, sputum, lavage, and nasopharyngeal aspirates and washes. The specimens can also be obtained from upper respiratory tract regions (including the nasal swabs or the oropharyngeal swabs).

The RT PCR test is a nuclear-based method that can detect the presence of viruses and other pathogens in genetic material. The original version of the test utilized radioactive isotopes and markers for detecting genetic material. However, the test has been refined further and now uses fluorescent dyes and other special markers for isotopic labeling. In the original and older versions of the RT PCR test, the results were only visible once the process was complete. However now the results can be seen immediately and even when the process is still going on.

The Working of the RT PCR Covid Test

A virus is a pathogen that contains genetic material enclosed in a molecule forming an envelope over it. The virus may carry both RNA (ribonucleic acid) as well as DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) as genetic material. There are certain viruses (such as the Covid 19 virus) that contain only RNA as their genetic material. Such viruses invade the healthy cells and use the host cell material for surviving and multiplying.

An RNA virus like the coronavirus needs to be detected and identified early so that its growth is stopped and no severe health issues occur. Scientists can use the RT PCR test for detecting the virus by converting RNA to DNA by reverse transcription technology.

The RT PCR test is carried out on a sample/specimen that is collected from the body of a person. Specimens may include aspirates and swabs from upper and lower respiratory tracts among other body areas. In the majority of cases, the specimen is gathered from the throat or nose of a person. The sample thus obtained is treated with certain chemicals, so that other substances including fats and proteins are removed. In the end, only the RNA or the genetic material of the virus remains in the sample. The RNA may be a mix of the RNA of the virus as well as the genetic material of the infected person.

The RNA obtained from the sample undergoes reverse transcription to DNA. Further testing involves adding some fragments of DNA that may complement the viral DNA. If the virus is present in the specimen, the added DNA fragments will be attached to the viral DNA. The added fragments not only amplify the available DNA but also include the marker labels that provide for easy identification of the virus.

The newly found mixture is subsequently placed on the RT PCR machine. The machine runs the cool and heat temperatures on the sample, which results in certain chemical reactions that create more copies of the viral DNA. In the majority of the cases, there are around 35 cycles of RT PCR test conducted in real time for a sample. In this time, 35 billion copies of the viral DNA would be created.

The marker labels of the DNA fragments that were added to the specimen release the fluorescent die. It can be measured and identified by the computer of the machine and is processed in real-time. After the fluorescence dye passes the threshold level, the test confirms that the coronavirus is present in the sample. A more severe coronavirus infection can be reflected when the dye threshold is passed in fewer cycles and vice versa.


The RT PCR Covid test can be a tool for reliable diagnosis due to its high sensitivity. It is also much faster when compared to other testing procedures for coronavirus. However, because the viruses are only present in the body for a specific time, the RT PCR test cannot determine or detect past infections.

Photo by Madison Inouye –