A Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test can be used to diagnose a variety of conditions within the body.
A sample of DNA can be collected using one of the several available methods. You can carry out several of these at home, but some may require the intervention of a healthcare professional—such as a blood test.
But there’s a lot more to PCR tests that you may not know about. This article will tell you all you need to know.
What Is A PCR Test?
PCR tests are quick, accurate, and reliable methods of diagnosing genetic changes and specific infectious diseases. Because they can often make diagnoses before symptoms of infection present themselves, PCR tests have a vital part in the prevention of spreading diseases.
Most Common Uses Of A PCR Test
A PCR test has many medical uses. Notably, it can detect pathogens that may result in any of the following conditions:
- Hepatitis C
How Does A PCR Test Work?
There are many types of PCR kit out there that may be useful in detecting certain conditions and abnormalities in the body. But to successfully use a PCR test, you must know the ins and outs of how it works.
In its most simple terms, a PCR test works to amplify DNA sequences. It involves DNA bases, primers, thermal cycling, and a buffer solution to then replicate these sequences. These are identified using a sample of your DNA.
You Must Provide A Sample
This sample must consist of saliva, blood, tissue, or mucus that consists of your DNA (and potentially the DNA of a cancer cell or pathogen.)
Giving a sample for a PCR test requires only a few minutes of your time. It will either be carried out by a healthcare professional or you may be asked to do it yourself.,
The best part is that you don’t need to prepare for it, as you do with other tests and procedures. You may still be required to fill out a form with your basic information but nothing too personal.
Types Of Samples
The most common types of PCR test samples include:
This involves swabbing to collect a sample from the front part of your nostrils (anterior nares), deep inside your nostrils (a nasal middle-turbinate (NMT) procedure), or from the nasopharynx, the upper part of your throat and nose.
In some instances, health care providers may ask you to do an NMT swab or an anterior nares test yourself.
If nasal samples cannot be provided, you can use saliva instead. Providing this sample involves spitting your saliva directly into a tube. This way of collecting a sample is non-invasive, easy, and simple to repeat.
It can be carried out by healthcare professionals or non-healthcare individuals, provided they are given the correct instructions.
Particular PCR tests will require a blood sample. A healthcare professional will collect this sample from a vein by inserting a small needle into your arm.
Once the needle has been inserted, a small amount of blood will be drawn into a vial or a test tube. You may feel an initial sting when the needle is inserted or removed, but it’s a quick process.
DNA Is Separated And Analyzed Using A Machine
The sample you take (using one of the methods listed above) will then be sent to a laboratory and analyzed by a machine and a researcher. It will be placed into a specialized machine and heated which will separate the DNA present into two separate pieces of single-strand DNA.
An enzyme known as Taq polymerase is then added which causes a duplication of the original sample.
The machine can automate the whole process and repeat it whenever necessary. As a result, the overall copying process (“molecular photocopying”) is repeated many times. After about an hour, billions of copies are made. If a virus or pathogen is present, it will be indicated on the machine.
In these diagnostic PCR tests, the machine can detect pathogens after the genetic material has been replicated.
Time For Results
The time it takes to receive results from a PCR test may vary from a couple of minutes to a few days depending on whether the results have been sent to an off-site laboratory or not.
PCR tests are easy to carry out and produce results within very short time frames. They are efficient ways to analyze DNA to diagnose various conditions and diseases that may otherwise go undetected.