Knowing More Matters
What are PCR Tests?
A PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test detects genetic material from an organism (i.e. bacteria or a virus) by copying a small portion of the genetic material in a process called amplification.
Amplification allows for easier detection and identification of pathogens (disease-causing organisms) — sometimes even prior to symptoms surfacing — thus helping to prevent the transmission of infection and halt further disease spread. Tests that do not use amplification, such as antigen tests, might not achieve early detection because there are not enough viruses, bacteria, or other pathogens present in a patient’s sample.
How are PCR Tests Used?1
genetic changes that can cause disease
small amounts of cancer cells that other types of testing might miss
How Does PCR Testing Work?2
1. A patient gives a sample
A healthcare provider takes a sample of blood, saliva, mucus, or tissue. This sample contains DNA or RNA (genetic material).
2. The sample is placed into a machine where PCR amplification occurs
A chemical reaction causes the sample to make billions of copies of the genetic sequence.
3. The test is complete
The machine determines if pathogens are present in the amplified sample. A healthcare professional examines the results to develop a treatment plan.
What is the Difference Between PCR and Antigen Testing?
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, both PCR and rapid antigen testing emerged as integral to slowing the spread of the virus. However, PCR has been recognized as the gold standard for respiratory virus testing.
PCR tests are more sensitive than antigen tests. PCR tests amplify genetic material from the virus; therefore, they can detect very small amounts of virus in a sample
Antigen tests detect viral proteins directly from a sample without amplification; therefore, false negatives may occur if there is a low or moderate amount of virus present
PCRplus is an elevated category of PCR testing because it combines the following five advantages:
Results you can rely on.
Don’t wait days. Same-day results.
Results anytime, anywhere.
A track record of results you can trust.
Easy steps from test to results.
Time to result and intended use environment may vary, refer to individual test package insert for details.
1 Medline Plus: PCR Tests. Accessed 10/1/2022. https://medlineplus.gov/lab-tests/pcr-tests/
2 Cleveland Clinic: COVID-19 and PCR Testing. Accessed 10/1/2022. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/ diagnostics/21462-covid19-and-pcr-testing