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PCR RNA vs. PCR DNA?
Jul 28, 1998

What's the difference between PCR RNA and PCR DNA and when would one use one rather than the other? Also, is it preferable to use plasma or serum to conduct the tests or does it matter? Thanks...

Response from Dr. Holodniy

RNA PCR is usually used to measure HIV RNA in "cell free" plasma or serum, referred to as viral load. The assay converts the viral RNA to DNA which gets amplified millions of times in order to be detected and quantified. It can also be used to measure HIV RNA inside cells. This measures how many copies the virus is making of itself in the cell. It is not routinely used in clinical practice. DNA PCR measures the amount of naturally converted HIV viral RNA to viral DNA that gets incorporated into the chromosomes of someones cells. It is useful as a sensitive test for diagnosis. It is not very useful as a marker for disease progression or to monitor therapy. Plasma in general yields higher copy numbers than a serum sample. It is important to use the same material when testing serial samples to rule out sample variability. MH



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