RT-PCR Laboratory Testing for COVID-19

Using Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) technologies, PCR test kits detect the genetic RNA material of the virus confirming current COVID-19 infection status.

  • Most accurate method of determining current infection
  • Results by email, next working day
  • Optimal results from 5 to 21 days post exposure to infection

RT-PCR laboratory testing is the most reliable method of determining an individual’s infection by the Coronavirus. It uses DNA testing to identify the viral DNA within the individual’s body and, like all antigen testing, is most effective in the first 21 days after initial exposure – the period when the level of the virus in the body is at its peak. After 21 days, the antibodies developed by the infected person start to fight the virus and eliminate it from the body.

Use a COVID-19 PCR laboratory test kit for:

  • Confirmation of a positive screening result
  • When an individual is symptomatic
  • Following contact with a known infectious person
  • International travel requiring a Fit to Fly certificate

PCR Test Accuracy, Sensitivity and Specificity:

Specificity 100%           Sensitivity >95% at 0.75 copies of viral RNA/µl.

COVID-19 RT-PCR tests are highly accurate – they are able to detect very low levels of infection and they are the standard testing method used for determining whether someone has COVID-19. It is relatively expensive, and the delay incurred by sending the samples to the laboratory mean that it is far less practical than lateral flow rapid antigen testing as a screening method, but it should always be used to confirm any positive rapid-screening results.

RT-PCR testing cannot however determine the level of COVID-19 infection (it’s just a black-and-white, yes-or-no as to whether the viral DNA is present or not), nor can it detect whether an individual has been infected with COVID-19 in the past – for this, a COVID antibody test would be required – either an lateral flow rapid antibody test, or an ELISA laboratory test using a blood sample.