How Do COVID-19 Tests Work?

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How Do COVID-19 Tests Work?

How do COVID-19 Tests work - featured image
The first and most prevalent method used to detect COVID-19 is through molecular testing. The collection methods may vary slightly in reagents, all methods are used to detect specific parts of the viral genome. For COVID-19 tests, it starts with a nasal swab. Here’s how a COVID-19 test looks.


COVID-19 Testing Step 1: Collecting Viral SamplesStep 1: Collecting Viral Samples

A medical professional will swab inside of your nose to capture a sample containing viral particles. This swab is broken at the break line and placed in a sterile vial. After recording the collection, medical offices and testing centers will send the vial to the lab.

Though a nasal swab is what is used to test for COVID-19, there are other types of samples a doctor could collect for other types of tests. For example, if you are no longer having symptoms of COVID-19 but suspect that you have had it in the past, a blood sample might be taken to test for COVID-19 antibodies. However, the most effective way to detect is a person currently has COVID-19 is through molecular testing.


COVID-19 Testing Step 2: Extracting Genetic Material From the SampleStep 2: Extracting Genetic Material From the Sample

Once your sample makes it to the lab, the next step is to extract genetic material from the virus to determine what has infected you. This process involves breaking open the viral genome (RNA) using chemical reagents to the sample and repeatedly spinning it in a centrifuge. Not all viruses use RNA to carry their genetic material; some use DNA. In particular, COVID-19 uses RNA.


COVID-19 Testing Step 3: Copy DNA from the RNAStep 3: Copy DNA from the RNA

The RNA found in the sample is copied and combined with the building blocks for DNA and special enzymes that copy the RNA code into DNA. The new DNA must be copied multiple times so that there is enough to study it. This is called polymerase chain reaction (PCR). Short sequences of DNA that are unique to COVID-19, or other pathogens are added to the sample. If these sequences, called primers, match up with the DNA sequences then the DNA replicates.


COVID-19 Testing Step 4: Communicating the ResultStep 4: Communicating the Result

If the primers associated with COVID-19 match and the genetic material replicates, then the COVID-19 pathogen is present in the sample. Based on the volume of replication a positive or negative result is determined. A positive result means that the person is infected and considered to be able to transmit the disease.

If there is no SARS-COV-2 in the sample, then the primers won’t copy any genetic material and the test is negative. A negative result cannot tell whether a person is immune from a past infection or has yet to be exposed and is still in danger of getting the virus.

Results are identified within a few hours of the start of the test. Once results are confirmed by a lab technician, they are communicated to the healthcare provider.


Why Molecular Testing is Important

Molecular testing has become a routine part of the healthcare industry. PCR testing has proven to provide faster and more accurate results. According to the CDC, 70% of today’s medical decisions depend on laboratory results and over 14 billion lab tests are ordered annually. These tests are required for effective diagnosis and treatment of disease.

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Molecular Tests versus Antibody Tests for COVID-19

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Currently, there are two types of tests for COVID-19: a molecular reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test and an antibody test. Both tests are used to detect COVID-19 but it’s important to know when to use each of them.

Molecular Testing Through RT-PCR

The RT-PCR technique targets a specific segment of the virus’ genetic material to detect the presence of COVID-19. In other words, this test looks for virus-specific RNA within a patient to detect whether or not they are positive for COVID-19. This is done using a nasal sample from a patient that is currently infected.

If you are showing symptoms or believe that you have COVID-19, your healthcare provider may choose this test to confirm.

Testing for Antibodies

Antibody tests are used to detect whether a patient has been exposed to the virus. Antibodies are proteins that are induced by an infection (or vaccine) that are created to fight off the infection. Antibody tests are used for those who feel they have had the virus but have shown only mild or no symptoms. Antibodies are often studied when searching for a vaccine, and there are several antibodies being studied for use in a coronavirus vaccine across the world.

While this test can sometimes detect whether a person is currently infected with COVID-19, it is not as effective in detecting current infections. According to the CDC, antibody tests should not be used to diagnose COVID-19.

TideLaboratories PCR Antibody Infographic

Why is Testing For COVID-19 Important?

The coronavirus has disrupted the lives of millions across the globe and can be found on nearly every continent. Though this has effected millions just within our own borders, there are some public health experts who believe that the number is too low due to lack of testing availability. Accurate, high volume testing is critical to containing and controlling this virus, ensuring we are able to diagnose, isolate, and treat those with COVID-19. Proper diagnosis can help prevent the spread of COVID-19, even if a patient is not showing symptoms.

Tide Laboratories Offers COVID-19 Testing. Click Here to Learn More!

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TideLaboratories Social Distancing as State Reopens

Why Social Distancing Still Matters as We Reopen the Country

Woman on her laptop, wearing a mask, and video chatting with a man also wearing a mask

One thing is certain during this coronavirus pandemic: Everyone is looking forward to an end of social distancing and the reopening of the economy. Though local hospitals are not currently overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients, to begin safely reopening the economy and staying open, America will need to continue to practice social distancing.

Though much is still uncertain about the coronavirus, both the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are still taking COVID-19 very seriously. In fact, the CDC still recommends social distancing as states reopen across the country. This is because COVID-19 spreads mainly through close contact with others for a prolonged period of time. We’ve listed a few reasons to continue social distancing as Alabama, like other states, begins to slowly reopen.

  • Coronavirus is still spreading in some communities (and states).
  • Reopening states does not mean the virus is gone completely.
  • People can unknowingly carry COVID-19 and continue to spread the virus even if they don’t have symptoms.
  • We still do not have enough information about the coronavirus to effectively create new vaccines or treatments.
  • New information about how COVID-19 behaves and spreads is still surfacing.

Tips for Practicing Social Distancing As We Reopen

Each state and community may be slightly different, but following these tips in your community will continue to flatten the curve and keep you and your family safe.

Flatten the curve by practices social distancing

Don’t Forget To Wear Your Mask

If you’re planning on going out since your favorite store has reopened, you still need to wear a face mask. A face mask helps prevent the spread of COVID-19 if you are carrying the disease but are not showing symptoms. In other words, wearing your mask protects others from the disease. In addition, many businesses now have regulations that prevent patrons without masks from entering their business. If you’re in need of this new accessory, the CDC has tips and instructions for creating your own cloth mask. Remember to save medical masks for the frontliners (like emergency responders and healthcare workers) who need them most.

Expect Restaurant Dine-In Options to Be Different

Restaurants are considering reopening their dine-in options. Though this exciting news for you and your favorite burger joint, don’t expect the same experience that you’re used to. Some locations are prohibited by capacity levels, meaning they may have limited seating arrangements. Some restaurants may be implementing paper menus and many will require employees to wear masks. In addition to wearing your cloth face mask, be sure to maintain a distance of at least 6 feet from other patrons and comply with the restaurant’s new regulations.

Continue to Order Grocery Pick-Up or Delivery When Available

Though reopening means visiting your favorite places, it is still encouraged to continue having groceries and pharmaceuticals delivered. These places are still essential places of business and will still see a lot of traffic. To help stop the spread, continue getting groceries delivered, or schedule a pick-up. If your store doesn’t offer these services, consider shopping at non-peak hours to help keep foot-traffic low in-store.

Wash Your Hands Often

Washing your hands is still the most effective way to prevent COVID-19. Continue to wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after being in a public space, after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing. When soap and water aren’t available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Avoid touching your face with unwashed hands. Though gloves may be useful in certain cases, they can be just as dirty as skin if not changed frequently or put on properly. Check out the CDC’s proper handwashing technique page for more information.

Wash your hands for 20 seconds with warm soapy water often

Want More COVID Tips?

For more information about how to stay safe during the COVID-19 pandemic, follow us on social media! We’re on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Click here for more information about our COVID-19 testing.

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DTPM Coronavirus test

A Letter from our CEO on the Coronavirus Impact on DTPM & Tide Labs

geneGene Cleckler, the CEO and President of Tide Laboratories and DTPM provides this update about how the Coronavirus pandemic has impacted our work and the adaptations we have found to overcome these new challenges.

Read an excerpt from Gene’s letter below, and find the full content on the DTPM website.

I hope this message finds each of you safe and well.  Over the last few weeks, we have found ourselves in unprecedented circumstances facing this pandemic.  I wanted to take a moment of your time to update you on what DTPM and Tide Laboratories are doing.

During this pandemic, the testing volume at Tide Laboratories has been a challenge, to say the least.  We went from a lab that may test only a few hundred specimens in a week to one that resulted out over 2,000 specimens in a single day.  After careful consideration, we made the difficult decision to temporarily pause receiving specimens on April 13th in order to perform much-needed tasks as well as catch up on the volume of specimens received.  We are testing now on a limited basis primarily to support our customer laboratories.

Where I am from, when someone mentions snow in the forecast it is a sure bet that milk and bread will be cleared from the shelves.  Today, our grocery shelves are void of items that were previously plentiful.  While we face similar challenges in the laboratory business we are pleased with our progress and adaptation so far.  While we have run low, DTPM has yet to run out of any needed supplies.

DTPM and Tide Laboratories are here to provide the best quality products and services, especially during this difficult time.  Please practice social distancing and let’s get back to business as normal.

Read the Full Letter from Gene on the DTPM Website

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