Testing for COVID-19 (RT PCR Test)? Things you should know


The pandemic has led to a significant advancement in diagnostic technologies. The spread of COVID-19 led to the loss of millions of lives across the globe and early detection was the need of the hour to curtail the spread of this deadly disease along with stringent safety measures.

It becomes vital to get yourself tested if you have any of the symptoms pertaining to COVID-19 or if you have come in contact with someone who has been diagnosed with the disease. The RT PCR Test is considered to be one of the most reliable tests as it detects the presence of the virus in the human body.

Let’s take a look at some key points that you must be aware of when you are considering an RT PCR test.

What is the RT-PCR test?

The full form of RT-PCR Test is Reverse Transcription – Polymerase Chain Reaction Test. It is considered to be an efficient diagnostic procedure to detect viral RNA presence by combining the reverse transcription of RNA into DNA.

The RT-PCR test price is on the higher side as it requires an RT-PCR machine for analysis and detection along with trained lab technicians. Nose and throat swabs are collected to analyse the detection of the virus.

When should one do the RT-PCR test?

If you have the symptoms of COVID-19 infection such as difficulty in breathing, loss of smell or taste, or dry cough with flu-like conditions, then you must first visit a doctor to take advice and head to a reliable pathology lab and take the RT-PCR test. You may also have to take the test if you are traveling to certain states in India or other countries.

What is the difference between RT PCR Test and Rapid RT-PCR Test?

The Rapid RT-PCR test is done to detect targeted generic materials in the virus using isotopic labelling or fluorescent dyes. The method allows technicians to review the results within a few minutes. As the Rapid RT-PCR Test can be done quickly, it can be used effectively to increase the testing volume in times when the virus is spreading at a faster rate.

RT-PCR Protocols

Two different protocols are followed to carry out this test. When both RT and PCR components are mixed in a single tube at the same time, it is called the one-step protocol. This test is generally preferred for high throughput screening.

When Reverse Transcription is done first and then followed by PCR, it is called the two-step protocol. The c-DNA pool generated is more stable and can be used for multiple reactions over a long period of time. Tests conducted using the two-step protocol are more accurate.

Comparison with Antigen and Antibody tests

According to experts, RT-PCR tests are more accurate than antigen and antibody tests as the genetic sequences are analysed in the former test. However, there are chances of inaccurate results due to insufficient sample size or a laboratory error. The quality of the reagents used to conduct the test can also affect the results. The Rapid Antigen Test may give you quicker results over an RT-PCR.

Requirement of doctor’s prescription

The rules may vary from location to location. However, in most places across India, one need not take a doctor’s prescription to do the test. Apart from that, the RT-PCR test is also one of the mandates for traveling to several states. You can check with your healthcare provider if a doctor’s prescription is required to do the test.

Is ABBOTT ID NOW Covid-19 test similar to RT-PCR?

The rapid molecular ID Now Covid-19 test adopts the latest technology which gives results within 15 minutes. It is slightly different from RT-PCR and can be costlier as well as it is a portable diagnostic technology.

No side effects and applicable to all age-groups

The RT-PCR test has no side effects. Both children and elders can take the test safely. However, one cannot eliminate the possibility of false-positive or false-negative results.

Is an RT-PCR test required after Quarantine Period?

When you are COVID positive and have mild symptoms, the doctor may advise you to stay in isolation for 14 days and prescribe necessary medications. After your quarantine period, one may wish to take the test again to be certain if he/she has completely recovered. However, this is a personal choice.

The RT PCR test has emerged as one of the most popular COVID-19 tests worldwide due to its accuracy. It has helped in controlling the spread of the virus by enabling early detection. While new variants of the virus are being detected in different locations, it is very important to continue following all the safety measures such as sanitizing hands, maintaining social distance, and wearing a mask while stepping outside.

Also, meet a doctor when you think you have any of the COVID-19 symptoms. Taking the right precautionary measures and the right time is important to win this war against coronavirus.