Is the PCR Test for COVID-19 Accurate?

March 10, 2022
Picture of COVID-19 molecules.

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve all been introduced to a number of new terms, one of them being “PCR testing.” What exactly is a PCR test, and is this form of testing accurate? PhysicianOne Urgent Care has the answers you need.

What Is PCR Testing?

Before delving into the accuracy of PCR testing, it may be helpful to explain exactly what PCR tests are and how they differ from rapid antigen tests. A polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test is conducted using a nasopharyngeal swab and looks for the genetic material of the virus that causes COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2). This is different than rapid antigen testing, which is also performed using a nasopharyngeal swab but looks for protein fragments specific to the COVID-19 virus.

What to Expect During a PCR Test

During a PCR test, the provider will insert a long swab into your nostril and rub it against the back of your nose to collect a sample (in some instances, you may be asked to do this yourself). While you may feel some discomfort, the test should not be painful. Once the sample has been collected, the provider will place the swab into a tube, seal it, and send it to a lab for analysis.

Is PCR Testing Accurate?

Yes, PCR test results are generally considered to be accurate. While rapid antigen tests commonly produce false negatives and false positives—especially when a COVID-19 infection is still in its early stages—these issues are much less likely to occur with PCR tests. Plus, in addition to identifying an active infection, PCR tests are also able to detect traces of a previous infection. For these reasons, PCR tests are frequently referred to as the “gold standard” of COVID-19 testing.

The only drawback to PCR tests is that results generally take longer to receive than those from rapid antigen tests. However, considering how much more accurate PCR testing is, it’s usually the only option accepted by schools, employers, and other institutions.

PCR Testing Near You

If you’re concerned that you might have COVID-19, you can turn to PhysicianOne Urgent Care for walk-in PCR testing. Our physician-led practice has been treating patients since 2008, and we’re pleased to operate locations across Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New York. In addition to PCR tests, we also offer rapid antigen tests and antibody tests (which can indicate whether someone previously had COVID-19), and we’ll be glad to recommend the option that’s best suited to your needs. And if you’re unsure about whether you need to get tested, you’ll be glad to know that we also offer virtual visits that allow you to speak with an experienced provider from the comfort of your own home.

Contact PhysicianOne Urgent Care today at 860-650-3848 if you’d like to know more about our practice or our COVID-19 testing options.

This was the fastest, easiest, and best doctor's visit. The provider was extremely kind and helpful. I explained my symptoms, the provider asked a few followup questions, and then she issued a script. I will absolutely be using this service again and would recommend to anyone.
  • 5.0
  • 4.6