Comparing Rapid PCR and PCR

on March 7th, 2023
with 0 Comments
in Health Information and Tips

The recent COVID-19 pandemic brought with it many new terms.

So, you’ve probably come across the terms ‘PCR’ or ‘Rapid PCR.’  Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) tests detect viral, bacterial, mycobacterial, and protozoal infections. Physicians use PCR or rapid PCR based on the patient’s condition or the intended result.

A physician can order a PCR or rapid PCR if you display symptoms of COVID-19, influenza, HPV, hepatitis C, and tuberculosis, among other illnesses. The two tests are commonly interchanged health facilities, making it hard to understand what they mean and which suits you.

In addition, Rapid PCR and PCR’s crucial role in your well-being highlight the need to understand the unique features of the tests.

Here’s what you need to know about rapid PCR and PCR.

How Does Rapid PCR Compare to Traditional PCR in Terms of Speed?

PCR is a laboratory testing method that amplifies DNA or RNA sequence facilitating their detection or analysis. Usually, a traditional PCR test takes a few hours to generate results, while a rapid PCR test has a quick turnaround time of 5-30 minutes.

Why Is Rapid PCR Quick?

One of the most impressive features of Rapid PCR is speed. An urgent care center can administer the test quickly, allowing for rapid diagnosis and treatment of an infectious disease. It’s also a vital test in emergencies curbing the risk of spreading contagious diseases like COVID-19.

More importantly, its quick turnaround reduces infected patients’ time in quarantine facilities and helps them resume their lives. 

Here are three reasons why rapid PCR is quick:    

Thermal Cycling

Rapid PCR applied thermal cycling, a heating and cooling process, to create conducive conditions for DNA replication. Usually, thermal cycling involves three steps— denaturing, annealing, and extension.      

The thermal cycling approach is quick because temperature changes are rapid, controlled, and completed in minutes. For instance, during annealing temperature is lowered to around 55°C, which facilitates the binding of primers, a process that can take as low as 30 seconds. 

Small Reaction Volumes

The reaction volume can influence the time required for the sample to reach the desired temperature affecting the duration of PCR. Rapid PCR uses a smaller reaction volume than traditional PCR, reducing the time needed to complete DNA amplification.

In a nutshell, Rapid PCR achieves similar amplification levels to traditional PCR in a shorter time frame.

High-Fidelity Polymerase

High-fidelity polymerase is a type of DNA polymerase that helps to efficiently and accurately replicate DNA. They have a lower error rate than standard DNA polymerases, reducing the need for repeated amplification or verification of results.

They are also optimized to work at high temperatures, helping DNA extend rapidly in each PCR cycle. As a result, it cuts down the time needed to get results.

Traditional PCR Takes More Time

A PCR test can take 2-4 hours to generate results; however, you may have to wait a few days when the demand is high. A few factors are responsible for it. First, it uses a longer DNA sequence which requires more time to extend primers and cycling time.

In addition, traditional PCR involves additional steps like extraction or purification, translating to a longer wait time.

Accuracy Matters: A Side-by-Side Comparison of Rapid PCR and PCR Results

Healthcare providers use PCR and Rapid CPR to diagnose patients who display symptoms of COVID-19. Considering both options are available, it can be confusing to choose the proper test. However, each type has a place and time; the choice will depend on your situation and symptoms.

For instance, a rapid PCR test will give you a quick result if you’re sick and wondering whether your symptoms are COVID-19 related. On the other hand, if you don’t have symptoms or you’re simply taking a test to fulfill travel requirements, a PCR  test will produce the most accurate and reliable results.

A PCR test is more reliable and accurate because it tests specific virus material. On the contrary, you can only achieve high accuracy levels with rapid PCR tests by doing a series of confirmatory tests.

Generally, rapid tests present a high chance of getting false results. As such, it’s possible to have the virus but generate contradicting results.

Why Are PCR Tests More Accurate

A PCR test requires a sample of ribonucleic acid and amplifies it using a DNA amplifier. The amplification process magnifies small traces of viruses or bacteria in samples, a crucial step to identify or analyze.

Here’s why PCR tests are more accurate than Rapid PCR

  • Testing Window: A PCR test can detect a viral infection at later stages when the patient becomes asymptomatic. On the other hand, rapid tests are more reliable for testing patients with identifiable symptoms. The rapid PCR tests give more accurate results in the first few days of the infection when the viral load is high.
  • Sensitivity: PCR test is a comprehensive process that picks even minimal amounts of viral genetic material. On the contrary, rapid tests have low sensitivity and may not identify low virus levels or infections at early stages.

According to a study by two Universities in Wisconsin, a Rapid PCR test detected 80% of cases with symptoms and less than half of the asymptomatic patients. Interestingly, PCR tests detected COVID-19 nearly 100% all the time.

  • Specific: Rapid test accuracy levels are also reduced by the possibility to cross-react with other viruses leading to false positives. On the contrary, PCR can identify and target specific nucleic acids correctly and not other similar sequences.

The accuracy levels of PCR make it the most preferred method of testing viral infections like COVID-19. Even so, it can only be administered by a healthcare provider, and you can’t get immediate results, meaning you’ll have to wait a few days to know your status.

Protect Your Family With Newports PCR or Rapid PCR Test

If you’ve been exposed to someone with an infectious disease like COVID, a test will help you get timely treatment. More importantly, consider seeking a PCR test from an urgent care center offering safe, quick, affordable services.

At Newport Beach Urgent Care Center, we offer PCR and rapid PCR through appointments or walk-ins.

Contact us online or call us at 949.832.6347 and get tested today.