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We offer a PCR test for COVID-19. It is a test used to diagnosis people who are currently infected with SARS-CoV-2, which is the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. It’s the most accurate and reliable test. You can expect your test results between 24 and 48 hours from the time of your test.
How does a COVID-19 PCR test work?
There are three key steps to the COVID-19 PCR test:
1) sample collection, 2) extraction, and 3) PCR.
Sample collection is done using a swab to collect respiratory material found in your nose. A swab contains a soft tip on a long, flexible stick that is inserted into your nose. There are different types of nose swabs including nasal swabs that collect a sample immediately inside your nostrils and nasopharyngeal swabs that go further into the nasal cavity for collection. Either type of swab is sufficient for collecting material for the COVID-19 PCR test. After collection, the swab is sealed in a tube and then sent to a laboratory.
When a laboratory technologist receives the sample, they perform a process called extraction, which isolates genetic material from the sample including genetic material from any virus that may be present.
The PCR step then uses special chemicals and a PCR machine, called a thermal cycler, which cause a reaction to occur that makes millions of copies of a small portion of the SARS-CoV-2 virus’s genetic material. During this process, one of the chemicals produces a fluorescent light if SARS-CoV-2 is present in the sample. This fluorescent light is a “signal” that is detected by the PCR machine and special software is used to interpret the signal as a positive test result
RESULTS AND FOLLOW-UP
What do COVID-19 PCR test results mean?
A positive test result means that it is very likely that you have COVID-19. Most people have mild illness and can recover safely at home without medical care. Contact your healthcare provider if your symptoms get worse or if you have questions or concerns.
A negative test result means you probably didn't have COVID-19 at the time you took your test. However, it is possible to be infected with SARS-CoV-2 but not have enough virus in your body to be detected by the test. For example, this may happen if you recently became infected but you don’t have symptoms, yet; or it could happen if you've had COVID-19 for more than a week before being tested. Keep in mind that a negative test doesn’t mean you are safe for any length of time. You can be exposed to COVID-19 after your test, get infected and spread the SARS-Cov-2 virus to others.
This test detects bits of proteins on the surface of the virus called antigens. Antigen tests are typically considered rapid, taking only 15 to 30 minutes but are less accurate than a PCR test. Rapid antigen tests are most accurate when used within a few days of the start of your symptoms, which is when the largest amount of virus is present in your body. Because this test is not as accurate as a PCR test, if an antigen test is negative, your healthcare provider may order a PCR test to confirm the negative test result.