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The Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) test for COVID-19 is a diagnostic test used to detect the presence of the genetic material of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which is responsible for COVID-19. Here is a detailed description of the RT-PCR test:

1. Sample Collection:

  • The test involves collecting a sample from the respiratory system. The most common method is a nasopharyngeal swab, where a swab is inserted into the back of the nasal passage.
  • Other methods may include oropharyngeal swabs (from the throat) or nasal swabs.

2. Viral RNA Extraction:

  • The collected swab is then treated to extract the viral RNA (ribonucleic acid) from the sample. RNA is the genetic material of the virus.

3. Reverse Transcription:

  • The extracted RNA is reverse transcribed into complementary DNA (cDNA) using an enzyme called reverse transcriptase. This step converts the viral RNA into a form that can be amplified and detected.

4. Amplification (Polymerase Chain Reaction):

  • The cDNA is then subjected to a process called polymerase chain reaction (PCR). This is a molecular biology technique that amplifies a specific region of the DNA (or in this case, cDNA) to detect its presence.
  • Primers, which are short DNA sequences that are complementary to the target region of the viral genome, are used to selectively amplify the viral genetic material.

5. Fluorescent Detection:

  • To monitor the progress of the PCR reaction and to determine if the virus is present, a fluorescent dye or a probe that binds to the amplified DNA is often used.
  • The increase in fluorescence signals the presence of the virus.

6. Results Analysis:

  • The results are usually interpreted by measuring the cycle threshold (Ct) value. A lower Ct value indicates a higher viral load in the sample.
  • If the target viral genetic material is detected below a certain threshold, the test is considered positive for COVID-19.

7. Reporting:

  • The results are typically reported as positive, negative, or inconclusive. Positive results indicate the presence of the virus in the sample.

8. Quality Control:

  • Quality control measures are essential throughout the testing process to ensure accurate and reliable results.
  • Laboratories performing the test adhere to standard operating procedures and follow quality assurance practices.

The RT-PCR test is considered one of the most accurate methods for diagnosing active COVID-19 infections. It is widely used in diagnostic laboratories and healthcare settings around the world. Keep in mind that testing protocols may vary, and it’s essential to follow guidelines from health authorities and medical professionals for accurate and reliable results.

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