Rapid PCR tests provide laboratory-quality results in minutes.
Recent breakthroughs in coronavirus testing mean you don’t have to choose between fast and accurate to get COVID-19 results.
Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) — the gold standard in coronavirus testing — is now available with nearly 100% accurate results that the equipment displays within 20 minutes.
“The rapid PCR tests for coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) in use at Norton Prompt Care at Walgreens, Norton Immediate Care Centers and offices of Norton Children’s Medical Group, affiliated with the UofL School of Medicine, are a critical part of our efforts to defeat the coronavirus,” said Mary Rademaker, M.D., medical director of Norton Immediate Care Centers and Prompt Care. “Just a few months ago supply shortages and technology had delayed test results for several days. Now we can now detect coronavirus in minutes.”
Previously the best PCR tests took hours, but as demand overwhelmed capacity and testing supplies, the delays went on for days.
Advances in recent months have led to outpatient PCR tests that are just as accurate as hospital or laboratory-based tests at detecting even tiny amounts of coronavirus RNA.
Norton Healthcare uses the Roche Liat (laboratory in a tube) system that can check for influenza A or B at the same time as a rapid PCR COVID-19 test, detecting these viruses from sample taken from the nasopharynx.
Antigen tests, which were widely used earlier in the pandemic for quick results, contributed to rapid tests’ reputation for inaccuracy. Antigen test false negatives — meaning the test incorrectly showed no infection — could be as high as 20%.
Antigen tests look for a coronavirus-related protein in samples taken from the nose or throat. They work best when someone is at or near peak infection, but often can miss cases outside of that peak when the person is contagious.