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Viral Respiratory PCR



Nucleic acid amplification assay (PCR) tests for the detection of one or more of the following:

  • SARS-CoV-2 (Covid)
  • Influenza A (Flu)
  • Influenza B (Seasonal Flu)
  • Respiratory Syncitial Virus (RSV).


Diagnosis of viralĀ  respiratory infection.


Nasopharyngeal swab

  • Please take nasopharyngeal swab as shown here.
  • Test sensitivity is dictated by the amount of virus on the swab and is therefore influenced by:
    • (1) the timing of the test in relation to the symptoms and
    • (2) the quality of the sample (operator-dependent).
    • A result should be interpreted in light of the pre-test probability (severity of symptoms, their level of exposure, the disease in the contact); no test is 100% sensitive or specific.

Specimen container

Yellow topped Cobas swab (preferred)

Red/green topped viral swab

Special Instructions

  • For hospital patients:
    • Follow Trust guidelines as on the HUB
    • All samples need to be requested on EPIC
    • If highly suspicious of infection but initial swabs are negative, repeat swab and request an extended panel to look for other causes.
      • Only tested after agreement with a Consultant Microbiologist
  • For community/GP/Primary Care patients:
    • Flu/Covid/RSV testing NOT currently required in community cases
      • Samples received will NOT be processed
      • Please contact the laboratory to discuss with a Consultant Microbiologist prior to sending a sample if a Clinical need for testing is felt
  • Tests are selected by the laboratory usingĀ  information provided on the request; please state:
    • Which viruses you want us to test for, either:
      • SARS-CoV-2 Only
      • SARS-CoV-2, Influenza A & Influenza B
      • SARS-CoV-2, Influenza A, Influenza B & RSV
    • If specific viruses are not indicated clinical details and test availability may determine what is tested for
  • Patient clinical details – please include symptoms, details of foreign travel and any immunocompromise.

Please note we do not offer a private Covid-19 testing service.


Routine test (local test)

Only during routine opening hours (POCT testing available for urgent testing of ED/Admissions Out of Hours)

Turnaround time

Urgent – within 2 hours of sample receipt (During routine opening hours)

Non-urgent – within 24 hours

Useful Links

For Patients:

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Testing – Lab Tests Online

Coronavirus (COVID-19) – NHS

Influenza (Flu) Tests – Lab Tests Online

Flu – NHS

RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus) – Lab Tests Online

Specimen Labelling Procedure
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