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For most, PCR testing was a topic confined largely to the world of molecular biology textbooks before its widespread use during the ongoing virus situation.

Mention of the test can be heard almost everywhere at this point, but do we know how it actually works? Do we understand its intended use, and what it can actually tell us?

Press play to learn:

  • The strengths and limitations of PCR testing, and the implications related to the current virus situation
  • What a ‘cycle threshold’ is, whether it needs to be known for detecting the target virus, and what it means if it isn’t known
  • How the use, results, and interpretation of a PCR test can be affected by who or which lab is carrying it out

Professor of molecular medicine at Anglia Ruskin University, Stephen Bustin, has spent years trying to improve the quality of molecular testing for diagnostic and research purposes. This includes PCR (polymerase chain reaction) and RT-PCR (reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction) testing, a method that’s become the topic of much conversation—even among general members of the public—since the early stages of the current virus situation.

Bustin explains the development of the PCR and RT-PCR testing method, the details of how it works via amplification of RNA, and what it can and can’t accomplish. He also discusses the necessary parameters for using the test to detect a particular virus, the discrepancy between clinical information and a positive or negative PCR test result, the risk of contamination, critical measures to take prior to and during the use of the PCR method (and whether they were taken during the early stages of the current virus situation), the interpretation of PCR test results, and more.

Episode also available on Apple Podcasts: apple.co/30PvU9C

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