Testing For Coronavirus Infection

Sana Masroor   by Sana Masroor, M.S., Biochemistry    Last updated on April 2, 2020,

Diagnostic tests for COVID-19 in the ongoing coronavirus pandemic is an essential tool to track the spread of the disease. The World Health Organization (WHO) has regularly been urging all the health agencies to make novel coronavirus testing a top priority in their response to the pandemic.

When Should You Go for COVID-19 Diagnosis?

If you are having mild symptoms of COVID-19, call your doctor for an advice about how and when to get tested. The general symptoms of COVID-19 are:

  • Dry cough
  • Sore throat
  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath

The COVID-19 symptoms usually appear within 2-14 days after an initial exposure to the virus.

Some people may show no signs of illness during the early phase of infection but can still transmit the virus to others.

For mild cases, home care and self-quarantine measures may be sufficient to fully recover and prevent the virus from spreading to others. But some of the cases need more complex medical interventions and are at higher risk for COVID-19 complications. These persons include people:

What Steps are Required if You Want to Get Yourself Tested for COVID-19?

If you suspect you have been infected with COVID-19 and are having symptoms, call on emergency or COVID-19 helpline. A doctor or nurse will assess your health status and risks over the phone call. They can then advice you as to how and where to go for testing, and will guide you for the right type of care.

What is Involved With COVID-19 Diagnosis?

Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) is the primary COVID-19 diagnostic testing method, which is being used in laboratories around the world. This test was earlier used to detect severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) which occurred in 2002.

To perform this test, a sample is first collected. A healthcare provider or a doctor will likely perform one of the following:

  • swab your nose or the back of throat
  • take aspirate fluid from your lower respiratory tract
  • take a saliva or stool sample

Researchers then isolate nucleic acid from the virus sample and then amplify parts of its genome through a reverse transcription PCR (RT-PCR) technique. This process gives them a larger sample for viral comparison. Two genes can be found within the SARS CoV-2 (COVID-19) genome. The test results are:

  • positive if both  the genes are found
  • inconclusive if only one gene is found
  • negative if no gene is found

RT- PCR may be the most accessible test, so talk with your doctor about your options if you are concerned about testing. Your doctor may also recommend for CT scan to help diagnose COVID-19 or to get a clearer view of how and where the virus has spread.


More: How Does Coronavirus Look Like Under a Microscope?

More: How Will COVID-19 Outbreak End from the World?


What Other Tests are Likely Going to be Available Soon for Coronavirus Infection Diagnosis?

Recently, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has authorized the use of a rapid coronavirus diagnostic test as part of its efforts to expand screening capacity.

The FDA has given approval to point-of-care (POC) testing devices which are designed by California-based molecular diagnostics company Cepheid for multiple patient care settings. This test has the potential to address the country’s testing shortage.

How Much Time Does it Take to Get the Test results?

RT-PCR samples are often tested in laboratories away from where they were collected. It may take a day or longer to get the test results.

The newly approved POC testing allows for sample collection and testing at the same location, which will give quick results.

Cepheid POC devices can produce test results within 45 minutes.


Frequently Asked Questions

There is no evidence yet regarding the temperature effects on coronavirus. The World Health Organization in its report has clearly mentioned that COVID-19 does not seem to have any effect of hot and humid environments.

Yes, pneumonia can be a symptom of coronavirus. According to National Foundation of Infectious Disease, the coronaviruses in humans can cause mild respiratory infections, like the common cold, but may lead to serious illnesses, like pneumonia.

There is no available vaccine for coronavirus as of now in 2020, but investigations are going on to unwrap the mysteries of the virus genome.. Currently, anti-HIV drugs are under investigation to be used as a cure for coronavirus. Anti-malarial drug (hydroxychloroquine) is also being tested for efficacy in treating against COVID-19.

No, coronavirus can’t go away on its own. It requires isolation and quarantined facilities in hospitals. As shortness of breath also occur, patients should be provided with oxygen support in case of severe illness. Initially, it seems to be asymptomatic, as its incubation period is 14 days, but after that it causes symptoms such as cough, fever, sore throat and breathing problem. It should be taken very seriously.

Sana Masroor

Sana Masroor is a biochemist and has pursued her Master’s degree in biochemistry from Jamia Millia Islamia University, New Delhi.  She has worked as a Research Trainee in the Special Center for Molecular Medicine, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.

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