Coronavirus testing

What Makes Coronavirus testing Such A Lengthy Process?


Since the novel coronavirus is exploding across the globe, public health agencies of all nations have started testing that was made available lately. PCR-based tests are being conducted in hospitals and health centers globally and companies are ramping up production of test kits in recent weeks. However, due to the shortage of test kits, the healthcare industry is finding it difficult to fight back the deadly virus and keep the citizens safe.

Major commercial laboratories are putting in their efforts, drive-up testing sites are being set up in various places, and various tests have got approved as per the emergency rules set by Food and Drug Administration. However, for the individuals who are getting tested have to wait and have patience since the reports come- the test result doesn’t take hours, but actually days. And during this, most people are confused about where they must quarantine themselves or not because they have no clue whether the reports are going to be positive or negative.

Presently, everyone wants to know why the test results are taking such a long time. Well, in this post, we’ll explore why the turnaround time of coronavirus testing varies and take around days or even weeks.

Understanding The Multistep COVID-19 Testing Process

A special swab is used for taking a sample from the person’s throat or nose, and then the swab is put into a tube and further sent to the laboratory. Many hospitals do have on-site molecular test laboratories, however, the majority of the samples are transferred outside for further processing. Generally, the transit time takes around 24 hours, however, it might take longer based on the distance of the hospital to the processing lab.

After reaching the laboratory, the specimen is further processed where the lab assistants extract the virus’s RNA, the molecule enabling genes regulation. Once the RNA is extracted, the special chemicals are mixed carefully with every sample and operate the combinations for analyzing in a machine. This process is known as the polymerase chain reaction that identifies if the sample is negative or positive for coronavirus.

Usually, a PCR test takes around 6 hours to complete, the labs that have enough workforce and machines; they can process multiple tests. However, since the cases are increasing, so does the demand for these labs increase and results in delayed reports and backlog. And when we talk about the supply, it is nowhere near the demand, and demand is rising rapidly while the supply is still limited. So, for now, we can say that broad-based testing is still not possible.

Number Of Tests Carried Out In A Lab Simultaneously

Well, the total number of tests that can be carried out at a time varies from lab to lab. If we talk about large commercial laboratories, they can process a lot- like somewhere around 20,000 tests every day or even more than that. Other laboratories and test kits are trying hard to reach this level and carry out more COVID-19 tests.

When we talk about molecular testing labs in hospitals which are smaller than commercial laboratories, comparatively conduct fewer tests. But since they save on transit time, we can expect results sooner than the tests received from other labs- the results are declared almost within five to six hours, which is very quick as compared to other labs.

However, these labs aren’t present everywhere- only a few health systems and large academic medical centers have molecular testing laboratories that demand complex equipment. These labs usually process around 93 samples at a time and around 279 tests each day.

Shortage In Supplies Is Another Factor Lowering The Test Production

Since the demand for testing is growing globally and every country is demanding maximum possible tests for its citizens, shortage of the swabs for taking samples, chemical agents used in the test kits, protective masks, and gear used by health professionals will definitely arise. The inadequate supply is too difficult to be balanced as per the growing requirements in the world at this moment of crisis.

At this point, hospitals are giving first priority to the older citizens who have symptoms of COVID-19, healthcare workers, responders, people staying in nursing homes, while the people having other ailments are treated differently in case they are infectious. Sticking to these priorities and acting accordingly will definitely help quicken the turnaround time and help in avoiding the transmission of the deadly virus. However, the regular shortage of the specific chemicals that are required by the health professionals during the testing process.

Lately, FDA approved tests that assure results within 45 minutes, however, these will be available only in those hospitals which are having special equipment. On the other hand, in the case of the lab-based PCR tests, labs can take enough time while producing the results, but the machines used can entertain a multiple numbers of tests simultaneously.

Author Bio: I am Eva Watson, associated with Jade Scientific. I have been writing blogs and articles on the subject of healthcare industries. Currently I am writing on trending Corona Topics. Apart from writing, I am a Netflix-freak and a voracious reader.

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