LabCorp has been given the green light for emergency use by the Food and Drug Administration to conduct testing for asymptomatic people. The RT-PCR (Reverse Transcription - Polymerase Chain Reaction) test has been studied and proved to determine the presence of SARS-CoV-2, the Covid-19 virus strain, even in a person showing no visible symptoms.
The RT-PCR test is able to garner results in just minutes, as it detects the viral strain in the patient in real-time, compared to the standard PCR test which takes hours or days to show results. It also has other advantages from the regular PCR test.
Before the approval, only persons showing signs and symptoms of Covid-19 and those who were recently in contact with a positive patient are prioritized to be tested to conserve the testing kits.
“FDA’s authorization of the first diagnostic test to be used for anyone, regardless of whether they are showing symptoms of COVID-19 or have other exposure risk factors, is a step toward the type of broad screening that may help enable the reopening of schools and workplaces,” a statement by Stephen M. Hahn, M.D., FDA Commissioner.
Testing centers and laboratories in the United States have been experiencing difficulties due to having a huge number of accumulating tests that are yet to be completed due to the massive oncoming of confirmed cases every day. Every confirmed case is a new process of contact tracing and another round of testing. States in the country have reported having more than 1,000 confirmed cases in one day.
A recent ongoing study by MIT and Harvard compared the virus content in asymptomatic and symptomatic Covid-positive patients. Their findings showed the similarity of the amount in both kinds of patients. They suggested that the PCR test, which is only intended for symptomatic patients may be able to detect the virus in an asymptomatic person. The test works by finding a specific genetic sequence that is present in a virus.
A disclaimer on the study said that only the viral content levels present in the body are compared, but it does not imply whether or not the viral transmission is faster or slower in either type.
The breakthrough made by the research has opened conversations about a wider testing coverage that should apply even to those without visible Covid symptoms to decrease the number of local transmissions that could possibly be caused by asymptomatic virus carriers.
As of July 29, there are 4.44 million cases in the United States.