What is a PCR test? PCR means polymerase chain reaction. It's a test to detect genetic material from a specific organism, such as a virus. The test detects the presence of a virus if you have the virus at the time of the test..

Reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction is a laboratory technique combining reverse transcription of RNA into DNA and amplification of specific DNA targets using polymerase chain reaction. It is primarily used to measure the amount of a specific RNA.

Because the PCR test is so sensitive, it can detect very small amounts of virus material. This means that the test can continue to detect fragments of SARS-CoV-2 virus even after you’ve recovered from COVID-19 and are no longer contagious. So you may continue to test positive if you've had COVID-19 in the distant past, even though you can’t spread the SARS-CoV-2 virus to others.

Prolonged infection in immunocompromised individuals can occur where they shed infectious virus for months. Also, healthy people can become reinfected. If you test positive for SARS-CoV-2 but you think you might have already recovered from COVID-19, please discuss with a healthcare provider.