How PCR thermal cycler detected COVID 19 Virus?

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How PCR thermal cycler detected COVID 19 Virus?

The coronavirus, also known as COVID-19 brought the world to a standstill. With scientists around the world trying to understand the nature of the disease, much research has been done within a short span of time. As we know, all the efforts paid off have a greater grasp of knowledge about the deadly virus. Before we dive into how PCR thermal cycler detected COVID virus, let’s take a look at what the COVID virus is.

What do we know about the COVID-19 virus?

COVID 19 virus, as the name suggests, is a virus caused by the (severe acute respiratory syndrome) SARS-COV-2 virus. It was classified as an epidemic when it spread all over the world within a span of few months. 

The virus is spread through the transmission of liquids, like sneezing, coughing, even breathe etc., from an infected person. Proper precaution like maintaining social distance, wearing a mask, and getting vaccinated is a must.

When the COVID-19 virus enters the host, it replicates and produces thousands of copies of itself, this is how it infects the human body. The genetic material of COVID-19 is Ribonucleic Acid (RNA), unlike the genetic material of humans, that is, DNA. This is another reason why the disease mutates quickly and is virulent.  

The genetic makeup is key in identifying the infectious organism 

Every organism has its own unique genetic composition. This means a bacteria, virus or even human beings have very different composition. Studying it helps us identify unknown organisms. 

This becomes very important as understanding the genetic components can help identify the presence of organisms. Here, it helps us to identify and detect the presence of Corona virus in the human body. 

This brings us to a series of questions: 

How do you know if you have been infected with COVID-19?

If you have been infected with the COVID-19 virus, you will experience symptoms like: fever, cough, loss of taste or smell, tiredness.

However, to know for sure that you have the virus, there are tests available. COVID testing is mandatory to confirm if you are COVID positive or negative. One of the first and most widely accepted and used tests is PCR testing.

What is a PCR testing?

Polymerase Chain test (PCR) is a test used to identify organisms by checking the genetic material. From the tiny sample collected, this test can expand and make many copies of the gene sequence. This gives us a genetic map of the organism. This test is used to identify and detect the COVID-19 virus.    

How do you run a PCR test?

In a laboratory, a PCR test is run on a PCR Thermal cycler machine.    

It is a very simple process that requires only a small amount of liquid from the patient. 

  • A small amount of sample is collected from the nose or the mouth.
  • The collected sample is extracted and sent for PCR testing.

For PCR testing, it requires special chemicals, enzymes and a PCR thermal cycler, which will amplify the sample collected.

Why amplify the sample?

Since a small portion of the sample is collected. It must be amplified to create many copies of the specimen which gives a complete look into the genetic composition of the organism. This is key to identify the COVID-19 Virus.    

What is a PCR thermal cycler?

A PCR thermal cycler is the machine that carries out the PCR test. It is also known as Thermocycler or PCR machine. This machine helps magnify the RNA and show the genetic makeup, helping us accurately identify the organism. 

How does PCR thermal cycler detect coronavirus?

PCR thermal cyclers have holes in which the tube containing the sample are inserted in the cavity. The sample is put through different temperatures over a period of time to help break down samples.

The sample needs to be amplified in order to see the genetic constituents of the sample collected. During this whole process, it is subjected to different chemicals and enzymes which facilitates the reaction. 

How the thermocycler works

PCR testing consists of three parts which consist of different temperature treatments. The thermal cyclers have thermal block cavity which carries the sample tube. 

The cycler then undergoes a series of pre-programmed steps which increases and decreases the temperature. This is necessary to help facilitate the replication/ amplification of the genetic material.

Why is the thermal cycler important for detecting COVID-19 virus? 

Most of these cyclers are real time thermo cyclers which provides quicker gene analysis, and specific detection of organisms like bacteria and viruses. 

This machine is specifically designed to help identify the organisms, just from small amount of sample DNA/RNA.

A PCR test is the most reliable method of testing for the presence of an active COVID-19 virus. A PCR test is required to know the status of your health: if you are COVID positive or negative. 

What makes PCR test reliable?

  • PCR is a diagnostic test that looks into the molecular level to identify the genetic material. Other tests like Antibody tests only reveal if you have had COVID-19, this will show a positive result.
  • It shows the status of an Active virus. An active virus means you currently have the COVID-19 virus in your body.
  • If you have been infected with COVID 19. Other tests like rapid antigen or antibody test will show you a positive result but this doesn’t mean you are currently infected with COVID 19.
  • A PCR test shows that if you have an active virus in your body, not the antibodies of the virus present. 

PCR Thermal Cycler is crucial in the detecting COVID 19. It gives real time results on a short period of time. This machine is a breakthrough in the field of biotechnology. 

For many years, understanding the nature of the organisms were unknown to man. However, recent advances in technology have made it possible. Learning about the nature of any pathogenic organisms is also key to finding a cure and eliminating the disease. 

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