PCR has been rapidly emerging as one of the primary tests used to process clinical samples for several test types. With the rise of COVID-19, patients and physicians are understanding the importance of faster results to ensure optimal treatment.
Here we’ll take a look at the advantages and potential hesitations of PCR testing and why LUX Diagnostics and so many other diagnostic labs are making the switch from culture testing to PCR.
Why is PCR better than culture?
Polymerase Chain Reaction, or PCR, has been used since the 1980s, completely revolutionizing testing and research in biology fields.
PCR can be performed using source DNA from a variety of tissues and organisms, including peripheral blood, skin, hair, saliva, and microbes. Only trace amounts of DNA are needed for PCR to generate enough copies to be analyzed using conventional laboratory methods. For this reason, PCR is a sensitive assay. 
By replicating DNA samples, we’re able to examine them in closer detail and easily analyze them for proper diagnosis. Though bacterial culture testing has been around since the 1860s, PCR has significantly shifted how we approach treating patients. Since PCR uses DNA copies, it offers faster and more robust results than waiting to grow bacteria in the lab. PCR may be more expensive for patients than culture testing, but it proves to be a more reliable and quick approach that ultimately ensures a greater quality treatment process for patients.
Why are physicians making the switch to PCR?
Maximizing patient care should always be at the top of the priority list for physicians.
By eliminating the waiting time with PCR, patients can avoid unnecessary medications and treatments that could prove to be irrelevant or even incorrect. Because of these speedier results, patients are able to be properly treated much sooner, eliminating additional risks and worsening symptoms.
PCR testing can slow down the spread of COVID-19 and other infectious diseases, significantly aiding in avoiding more outbreaks. PCR can also reduce or eliminate additional tests because it is such a specific tool for analysis. Ultimately, this benefits the patient again by cutting healthcare expenses and saving them time and money.
At LUX Diagnostics we understand that sticking to tradition is not always the most effective option, as new and improved methods are always emerging. And since PCR has been around now for nearly 40 years, there has been adequate long-term scrutiny regarding its effectiveness.
That being said, it’s important to note the emergence of false-negative results in PCR testing.
False-negative results in a screening test can have serious implications during a pandemic because a proportion of true infected cases are categorized as disease-free and can unintentionally transmit the disease. Unfortunately, there is no single molecular test that can guarantee the infection-free status for a suspected case; therefore, the clinical history and social contacts of the individual should always be taken into account in the assessment of the infection probability. Repetition of the molecular tests over time also helps to increase the accuracy. 
As mentioned before, PCR testing provides faster results, ensuring more precise treatment protocols. This method works and can save a lot of time, money, and potentially faulty culture tests.
PCR vs Culture: How Patients Benefit
The use of at-home testing has surged since the rise of COVID-19. They are valued for their low price point and immediate results, but these tests are not always perfect.
Getting diagnosed by a physician is the best and most reliable option, and PCR tests prove to be the next best option for patients needing fast results. Patients receive results much faster with PCR rather than culture, as they can have answers in a few hours instead of potentially waiting for days. This also cuts down additional costs for other tests or antibiotics prescribed, helping them save time and money.
Patients can also feel more comfortable with their results when it’s been analyzed by a professional rather than with an at-home kit. PCR tests may be more expensive than other, more accessible ways of testing, but the cost ensures a greater sense of confidence and trust which is ultimately worth it.
How can PCR improve a physician’s practice?
Physicians also benefit from implementing PCR testing into their practice because they themselves spend less time on individual analysis, allowing more patients to be helped.
As well, because patients are receiving answers faster through rapid analysis, more and more people will be treated, helping contain the spread of contagious diseases with more efficiency.
Optimal machines for infectious disease testing
Infectious Disease Panels (UTI, STI, GI, Fungal, Wound, RPP): Ran on Quant Studio 12k Flex
- Reduced analysis and hands-on time
- Test multiple samples in a single run
- Fast results
- Five interchangeable blocks
- Start a 12,000 data point experiment in typically less than 20 minutes
Standard UTI & STI Panels: Ran on Seegene STARlet
- Reduced analysis and hands-on time
- Application of a range of sample types
- Straightforward and intuitive software
- Requires little training
- No manual pipetting
Covid-19 PCR: Hamilton STAR – Used for high volume
- Temperature control
- Liquid dispenser and cleaner
- Customizable applications and features
- Visual guides for pipetting tasks — straightforward and little training required