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COVID-19 Testing

Updated: 22 Dec 2023
Published: 07 May 1995
COVID-19 Virus Qualitative RT PCR

COVID-19 or corona virus has created a havoc all across the world and is considered to be a global pandemic. It has resulted into nation being shut down with drastic effects on the world economies and health systems. COVID 19 testing is done to identify the corona virus among the individuals and is mainly conducted through Polymerase Chain Reaction Test (PCR). It helps to detect Influenza A, Influenza B, H1N1 and other antibodies produced due to the virus. Serology is another type of method used as it shows the presence of anti-bodies, i.e. whether the person has been infected at some point in the past, whether they show the symptoms or are asymptomatic.

The PCR test is conducted by using a swab by taking a sample of mucus from the back of the throat or a saliva sample. In PCR test, the enzyme ‘polymerase’ is used to duplicate a segment of a patient’s DNA i.e. to create the copies. It all depends on how the DNA segment gets copied. Some virus like SARS-COV-2 are made of RNA instead of DNA, in such a case, a process called as reverse transcription is used to convert RNA into DNA, after which the duplication process takes place. Duplication leads to the creation of copies which are then exposed to fluorescent DNA binding that shows whether there’s presence of virus or not. According to the scientist and researchers, this process takes approximately 4-6 hours to a day. However, this test is only valid in the first week of the disease because later the virus disappears from the throat, however it continues to spread itself further in the body especially the lungs.

Coming to our nation, India is conducting the PCR test in two stages:

STAGE 1: testing the genetic elements commonly found in the body because of the presence of coronavirus.

STAGE 2: SARS-COV-2 specific tests that detect the presence of this virus only.

Nations affected with this virus are regularly conducting these tests with the motive to detect, cure and minimize the presence of the virus among the citizens. Statistics show that, as of 22 April, the countries that published their testing data have on average performed a number of tests equal to only 1.2% of their population, and no country has tested samples equal to more than 13% of its population.

Testing is the key to keep a track and find out the extent of spread of the virus. Therefore, it is necessary to conduct regular tests especially in the most affected areas to detect and avoid further cases. It helps us to identify the infected individuals and efficiently guide them to appropriate medical resources thus helping them as well as the people around. One of the important requirements is gathering of the data. The data about the number of confirmed cases in a region is necessary to understand the growth levels of the pandemic. It is also mandatory that government provides accurate information about the spread of the virus, detected cases, confirmed cases and deaths to the public, so that they understand the gravity of the situation.

‘Social distancing’ and ‘quarantine’ are the precautions given by the government for the public to follow, however the priority should be focussed on conducting as many tests as possible. Through a continuous chain of testing, chances are we might be able to curb this grave situation before it affects people in increased numbers or gives rise to a second wave of pandemic. The probability that a person has had COVID-19 after a positive result from the test is less than 50%. They might show symptoms that the test must have detected or it might be because they were detected positive in the past. However, there are ample chances of people getting cured through regular precautions taken against respiratory diseases.

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