Molecular diagnostic RT-PCR (real-time-polymerase chain reaction) tests are exceptionally accurate and fast in diagnosing infectious diseases. The test works by copying a small amount of genetic material many times during the amplification process, which will detect the pathogens that are present in the patient’s sample. In addition, RT-PCR testing provides real-time quantification data to providers through the use of CT values, which will indicate the level of infection (low, medium, or high) that is present. The identification of antibiotic resistance genes via molecular diagnostic RT-PCR testing provides clarity on which antibiotics should be avoided in the treatment of the infection, thereby allowing for precision medicine to be practiced.
Molecular diagnostic RT-PCR diagnostic testing is often times confused with other genetic tests available, but such a comparison is inaccurate. RT-PCR testing is much more similar to other microbiology-based tests like standard culture tests (except far superior) than genetic-based tests in that the goal of the test is to determine the presence or lack thereof of specific microbes. It is done by copying a small amount of genetic material related to the specific pathogen and not the DNA of the patient themselves. In other words, while performing RT-PCR testing, one is trying to determine whether the DNA or RNA of a particular pathogen is present in the patient’s sample.