What is a Molecular Test?
Molecular diagnostics, such as multiplex real-time PCR, offer an effective solution for infectious disease diagnostics because they have high sensitivity and specificity, excellent quality control procedures, and detect a large battery of viral and bacterial pathogens rapidly in a single sample.
These tests are also referred to as nucleic acid amplification tests (NAAT). The procedure begins by taking a sample from a potentially infected person’s nose or mouth (saliva), where virus might be found. If virus is present in the sample, then even low levels of virus genomic material can be amplified into millions of copies detected during a molecular diagnostic assay.
If a person is infected, the viral RNA will be detected and produce a positive test result. If a person is not infected, no viral RNA will be copied or detected, which will produce a negative test result. Amplifying the signal allows for even small amounts of virus to be detected. This category of diagnostic test includes polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests. The use of molecular diagnostics has significantly improved the yield of detection. Numerous rapid multiplex PCR assays are now commercially available that can detect up to 18 or more viruses simultaneously.