qPCR—quantitative PCR (polymerase chain reaction), sometimes also called real-time PCR—is a method for detecting nucleotide sequences (in this case, signatures of viral genomes) through a quick and often quantitative method.
We can simulate the detection of a virus by this method using many of the components scientists have used to design and implement tests for SARS-CoV2 since its discovery in December 2019. Viruses like SARS-CoV2 with genomes stored as RNA, the test has an added step for reverse-transcription of the RNA to DNA and these tests are then often referred to as RT-PCR. The entire process is summarized in the following infographic, which is also available for download in the Save & Share menu.
In the subsequent steps of the activity, we will 1) explore a key component of the specificity of PCR in general, 2) model the RT-PCR test for SARS-CoV2 in silico, and 3) model the added component that can make these tests quantitative and reasonably fast, making them a gold standard for virus identification in an infection.