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About Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR)
So far, the more accurate frontline response to the COVID-19 outbreak has been polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing. PCR is the gold standard for diagnosing an infectious agent, and it has the advantage that the primers needed for such tests can be produced with relative speed as soon as the viral sequence is known.
The first quantitative reverse-transcriptase-based PCR (RT-PCR) tests, for detecting SARS-CoV2 (COVID-19) were designed and distributed in January by the World Health Organization (WHO), soon after the virus was identified. The test protocol is complex and expensive, however, and is mainly suited to large, centralized diagnostic laboratories.
Tests typically take 4–6 hours to complete, but the logistical requirement to ship clinical samples means the turnaround time is 24 hours at best. Speedy real-time quantitative reverse-transcriptase-based PCR (RT-PCR) is current in use in many countries.
RT-qPCR machine & reagents takes < 1 hour to process, available in 16/48/96 wells.