Detection of SARS-CoV-2 using real-time polymerase chain reaction in different clinical specimens: A critical review

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Anees Muhammad
Hajira Ameer
Syed Adnan Haider
Ihsan Ali


COVID-19, Nasopharyngeal Specimens, SARS-CoV-2, RT-PCR


Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a disease caused by a new strain of coronavirus named as severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2). Globally, since the outbreak, more than seven million confirmed cases of COVID-19 have been reported. The rapid spread and increase in the number of new cases is due to person-to-person transmission. To further control its transmission, early laboratory diagnosis of both asymptomatic and symptomatic patients is crucial. Presently, the COVID-19 diagnosis of infected individuals is dependent on computed tomography scanning and real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR). The latter is considered more sensitive and efficient for early diagnosis. In this review, general comparisons are made (cases, fatality rate, incubation period, clinical features, and reservoirs) and diagnostic laboratory procedures (specimens, extraction methods, and positive rates by real-time PCR) are compared between SARS, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, and SARS-2. In total, 8982 SARS-2 suspected patients specimen data were retrieved, in which 40.9% (n = 3678) were detected as positive by real-time PCR. The specimen-wise high detection rate was observed from bronchoalveolar lavage, followed by saliva, nasal swabs, and sputum. As the COVID-19 cases are persistently increasing, the selection of appropriate specimens and laboratory assay would help in rapid and timely diagnosis.

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