Ewha Med J.  2021 Jan;44(1):1-10. 10.12771/emj.2021.44.1.1.

Laboratory Diagnosis of COVID-19 in Korea

  • 1Department of Laboratory Medicine, Ewha Womans University Seoul Hospital, Seoul, Korea


Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), the cause of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), is a type of human coronavirus that causes severe pneumonia, similar to SARS-CoV-1 and Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus. In Korea, the SARS-CoV-2 testing has started quickly from February 2020 to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. In this article, I would like to introduce the characteristics of coronavirus and PCR test methods that play a large role in COVID-19 quarantine measures. Real-time reverse transcription (RT)-PCR is one of the molecular diagnostic method, and it detect SARS-CoV-2 RNA by amplifying SARS-CoV-2 specific RdRp (RNA-dependent RNA polymerase) gene and E (envelope) gene at the same time. Real-time RT-PCR is currently the most reliable test that confirming COVID-19 and is in use worldwide. Real-time RT-PCR test is recommended for COVID-19 confirmatory diagnosis in Korea, but this test requires dedicated equipment, reagents, experienced technicians and laboratory medicine specialists, and it takes about a few hours to a day to report. Rapid molecular testing results in one to two hours with a simple procedure. Antigen test is less sensitive than real-time RT-PCR and can only be used as a secondary role of diagnosis. As the global COVID-19 pandemic progresses, diagnostic testing guidelines and recommendations may vary and will be updated as scientific evidence and experience of the COVID-19 accumulates.


COVID-19; SARS-CoV-2; Real-time reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction; Korea
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