PCR testing for infectious agents is a molecular technique that seeks to detect viruses or bacteria directly. These tests differ from those that detect antibodies or antigens, as the PCR technique involves the recognition of genetic material i.e. nucleic acids directly from the pathogens.
The genetic material of all living beings is composed of RNA or DNA, however, there are differences in the genome sequences of each one, which allows them to be detected in a specific and precise way. These differences make the PCR technique ideal for detecting infectious diseases, cancer and all kinds of genetic disorders. In this blog post, we’ll give you the lowdown on everything you need to know about PCR testing.
What does PCR detection look like?
Viruses or bacteria have an abnormal complement of DNA or RNA. The nucleic acid sequence formed is the ideal molecular fingerprint that aids in the identification of many viral pathogens. RT-PCR and PCR are used to analyse microbial DNA/RNA levels in clinical samples. Now, let’s look at what PCR tests are for and what their advantages are.
What are PCR tests for?
These tests are primarily used for the early detection of a disease. This is not the case with antibody or antigen tests, as these appear in the blood after a period of time, and not immediately.
PCR testing for infectious agents started in the early 2000s and is very accurate for microbial nucleic acids and can detect very low levels of infectious agents. Currently, dozens of countries apply such tests to detect human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) as well as hepatitis B virus (HBV) and hepatitis C virus (HCV) or the well-known SARs-Covid 2. By recognising and amplifying specific areas of the pathogens’ genetic materials through so-called nucleic acid amplification tests, early diagnosis of HIV, HBV, HCV, Covid infections is generated. In short, these tests detect them much earlier than other screening methods.
Today, the incorporation of the PCR technique in laboratories has greatly improved the detection of infections and the number of companies developing these tests has greatly increased and continues to grow.
However, the performance of such tests is complex, requires specialised staff and is costly, especially for low-resource laboratories, as it involves not only high cost issues, but also specific facilities and automated equipment. However, there is a rapid evolution from day to day: more and more results are obtained more quickly and easily, the complexity of the instruments is reduced and more qualified personnel are available.
What are the advantages of these tests?
As mentioned above, this type of testing has great advantages over other traditional methods. Its specificity and high sensitivity are its greatest strengths, despite higher costs than other laboratory techniques. In some diseases, such as tuberculosis, rapid diagnosis is key to limiting the spread of the disease and to promptly prescribe the appropriate treatment.
Another advantage is that it can detect most of the currently known infectious agents in many different types of samples (blood, faeces, biological fluids, tissues, surfaces, etc.).
At Ambar Lab, we have a wide PCR detection catalogue for the most common infectious pathogens and also for those less prevalent in our society.
As we have seen throughout this blog post, the PCR technique is ideal for early detection of infectious diseases. In this way, infections can be prevented and treatment can be applied quickly.
Contact us if you have any questions and visit our blog to keep up to date with all the latest clinical news. At Ambar Lab we offer more than 3,000 laboratory tests, support in business management and the development of new projects. We work to ensure that our wide and growing catalogue of tests is tailored to your needs, as we know that knowledge is the key to making our clients’ work easier.