The coronavirus crisis has placed the PCR test system right under the spotlight. Not many of us knew before what a PCR testing system could do, or how it worked, except for those evolving in the health sector. It was the main solution used to discover who were infected with COVID-19 during the pandemic, but this system can help with many other health issues.
A Great Help in the Fight against COVID-19
The Polymerase Chain Reaction, mostly known as PCR, was discovered by Kary Mullis in 1983. It took only four years afterwards to see the arrival of thermal cyclers on the market to perform the PCR tests, which consists in the manipulation and detection of nucleic acids. In 1999, Digital PCR was developed, which greatly advanced the field. Today, companies have been using this method through their Naica system workflow, to identify those testing positive to the coronavirus.
In less than two hours and thirty minutes, this system can be loaded with the sample before performing its mission and coming up with the results. The rapidity of these tests has really helped during the pandemic. In a situation where thousands of patients needed to be tested daily in hospitals, the PCR made it manageable and kept the doctors in position to make decisions quickly on who to treat.
Other Beneficial Uses
Although we now know PCR has a way to discover infectious diseases (not only the coronavirus), it also serves many other purposes. One of them is to discover cancer cells in patients. As we saw earlier, tests can be made very rapidly with this system. In regard to cancer patients, old ways of testing implied a biopsy and an analysis which could take weeks. In the meantime, the doctor in charge would treat the patient blindly, hoping it would use the right treatment, but never certain about it.
With PCR Testing, not only does the doctor receives confirmation (or not) of the presence of cancer cells the same day, but it can also test the patient regularly, in order to check if the number of cells are increasing or decreasing. That informs the professional on the results of the treatment he has been using on the patient and enables him to change rapidly if no changes take place or if the patient is getting worse. Gaining weeks of providing the right treatment to a cancer patient (in comparison to before) can save his life, which is just one of the many beneficial uses of the PCR people will discover in the future.