Real-time PCR has revolutionized the way clinical microbiology laboratories diagnose many human microbial infections. This testing method combines PCR chemistry with fluorescent probe detection of amplified product in the same reaction vessel. In general, both PCR and amplified product detection are completed in an hour or less, which is considerably faster than conventional PCR detection methods. Real-time PCR assays provide sensitivity and specificity equivalent to that of conventional PCR combined with Southern blot analysis, and since amplification and detection steps are performed in the same closed vessel, the risk of releasing amplified nucleic acids into the environment is negligible. The combination of excellent sensitivity and specificity, low contamination risk, and speed has made real-time PCR technology an appealing alternative to culture- or immunoassay-based testing methods for diagnosing many infectious diseases.
The COVID-19 RT-PCR test is a real-time reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (rRT-PCR) test for the qualitative detection of nucleic acid from SARS-CoV-2 in upper and lower respiratory specimens (such as nasopharyngeal or oropharyngeal swabs, sputum, lower respiratory tract aspirates, bronchoalveolar lavage, and nasopharyngeal wash/aspirate) collected from individuals suspected of COVID-19 by their healthcare provider (HCP), as well as upper respiratory specimens (such as nasopharyngeal or oropharyngeal swabs, nasal swabs, or mid-turbinate swabs) collected from any individual, including for testing of individuals without symptoms or other reasons to suspect COVID-19 infection.