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How Do PCR Tests Works?

PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests are a fast, highly accurate way to diagnose certain infectious diseases and genetic changes. The tests work by finding the DNA or RNA of a pathogen or abnormal cells in a sample.

PCR tests can find evidence of disease in the earliest stages of infection. Other tests may miss early signs of disease because there aren't enough viruses, bacteria, or other pathogens in the sample, or your body hasn't had enough time to develop an antibody response. You can also visit to know more about corona testing.

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PCR tests can detect disease when there is only a very small amount of pathogens in your body. These PCR tests generally work by:

  • Taking a sample of blood, saliva, mucus, or tissue

  • The sample will contain your own DNA and possibly the DNA of a pathogen or cancer cell.

  • The sample is put in a special machine. An enzyme called polymerase is added to the sample. This causes the sample to produce copies.

  • The copying process is repeated multiple times. After about an hour, billions of copies are made. If a virus or pathogen is present, it will be indicated on the machine.

During a PCR test, a small amount of genetic material in a sample is copied multiple times. The copying process is known as amplification. If there are pathogens in the sample, amplification will make them much easier to see.

PCR tests are considered the best and most effective method for identifying many infectious diseases, including COVID-19 and Ebola. And because they are often able to make diagnoses before symptoms of infection occur, PCR tests play a crucial role in preventing the spread of diseases.