Covid Tests Can Be Standardized Using RNA Reference Materials

Nikki Attkisson | Last Updated : January 24, 2022

There are different methods used to detect the Covid infection in our body. The PCR test is one of the most popular as it is highly accurate, and it is considered the gold standard when it comes to diagnosing Covid patients. Even though there are other instant kits available these days, the level of accuracy given by PCR cannot be matched by other tests.

Covid Tests Can Be Standardized Using RNA Reference Materials

During the PCR test, the DNA is multiplied using chemical reactions, and the number of sequences needed to reach the threshold determines the presence of the virus in the body. However, there can be slight changes between the levels used by different labs when it comes to the threshold level.

Covid Tests Can Be Standardized Using RNA Reference Materials

The health agencies now want to standardize such threshold levels so that the reports will be uniform across the country in the future.

The coronavirus is an RNA virus with a single-strand genetic material, unlike DNA. However, the PCR test works only with DNA, and the RNA has to be converted to DNA before performing the Covid test. The threshold point reached during the test determines whether the patient is positive or negative for the Covid virus. Due to changes in testing methods and equipment used for the PCR test, the threshold value can differ by a small margin between different labs.

The researchers studied the difference in these levels by checking the samples in different labs. The research was done with the cooperation of multiple universities and health institutes worldwide. Even the digital PCR method was used, which can give better results than the conventional methods. The samples were sent to more than 300 labs around the country, and the data were analyzed by the team.

The interesting outcome of this study is that labs will benefit a lot when they have standard reference material regarding the threshold level during PCR tests. In this way, the results from any lab will look the same without any changes in the future.

In simple terms, many health experts consider the threshold level an important factor in determining the patient’s viral load. However, due to small changes in the threshold level between different labs, the viral load factor can change from one lab to another, and this can lead to changes in treatment methods adopted by the doctors.

Some experts are of the opinion that using the threshold level to determine the extent of infection is not completely right. The threshold level cannot be the only factor determining the concentration of virus in the body. Experts want more reliable methods to arrive at the viral load factor so that the best method of treatment can be given to the patients in the early stages.

All these things can get further complicated depending on the stage in which DNA was collected from the patient. The load can be less in some cases, but the patient can still be very infectious. In this regard, a standard procedure must be used by all labs so that the results can be consistent across the country.

In some cases, it is seen that patients test false positive or false negative due to errors in collecting the samples and the methods used for testing the viral load. All these things can be avoided in the future when there is a standard reference guide for the labs to follow regarding Covid tests. Similar procedures can be incorporated with the at-home test kits so that people can monitor their status easily without visiting labs during an emergency situation. Such standardization will help the labs to provide better quality results for Covid tests.

Nikki Attkisson

With over 15 years as a practicing journalist, Nikki Attkisson found herself at Powdersville Post now after working at several other publications. She is an award-winning journalist with an entrepreneurial spirit and worked as a journalist covering technology, innovation, environmental issues, politics, health etc. Nikki Attkisson has also worked on product development, content strategy, and editorial management for numerous media companies. She began her career at local news stations and worked as a reporter in national newspapers.

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