1. The patient's swab is taken
and sent to the lab for analysis.
2. Trained lab professionals prepare the swab sample in the tube for processing. To ensure correct identification and traceability each tube has a unique barcode.
3. The tube is loaded into the high throughput system with other patients' sample. unique barcode.
These highly automated systems are very sophisticated pieces of robotics with complexity approaching that of modern-day jet aircraft. They can have more than 20,000 fine-tuned components and require hundreds of hours to assemble.
4. The system begins the process of extraction, amplification and detection of the virus genetic material.
9 reagents are used to process a full PCR reaction. Reagents are complex mixtures of biochemicals or chemicals. The manufacturing of quality reagents at industrial scale is technically demanding.
4 a. The viral RNA is extracted to isolate it from other cellular components.
4 b. Multiple copies of that RNA are made.
4 c. The presence of those copies is detected with fluorescent dye.
4 d. The signal from the fluorescent dye is analysed by a complex mathematical algorithm to decide whether viral RNA was present in the sample.
Positive and negative controls ensure the reaction is working properly
About 3 hours after loading the sample, the system provides test results.
5. Specialised lab professionals analyse, control and approve the test results before they go into the lab reporting information system.
5. These results are made available to the healthcare provider to improve patient management and to enable more informed decisions.