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Reading the US government's article on the testing requirements for travel to the US (see the "Is there a specific test that must be taken?" section of the FAQ) , they specifically mention that you need a "viral test (NAAT or antigen test)". What stands out to me here is that PCR is not mentioned verbatim. Is PCR a type of NAAT test, or what does this mean exactly? Can I use a negative PCR test to satisfy the testing requirement?

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2 Answers 2

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According to the CDC:

A Nucleic Acid Amplification Test, or NAAT, is a type of viral diagnostic test for SARS-CoV-2

(...)

NAATs can use many different methods to amplify nucleic acids and detect the virus, including but not limited to:

  • Reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR)
  • Isothermal amplification including:
  • Nicking endonuclease amplification reaction (NEAR)
  • Transcription mediated amplification (TMA)
  • Loop-mediated isothermal amplification (LAMP)
  • Helicase-dependent amplification (HDA)
  • Clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR)
  • Strand displacement amplification (SDA)

So-called "PCR tests" are in the vast majority of cases actually RT-PCR tests.

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Yes, a PCR (RT-PCR) test is one NAAT method to detect the COVID-19 virus.

How is the COVID-19 Virus Detected using Real Time RT-PCR? | IAEA
RT–PCR is a variation of PCR, or polymerase chain reaction. The two techniques use the same process except that RT–PCR has an added step of reverse transcription of RNA to DNA, or RT, to allow for amplification. ... Since the COVID-19 virus only contains RNA, real time or conventional RT–PCR is used to detect it.

Nucleic Acid Amplification Tests (NAATs) | CDC
...
NAATs can use many different methods to amplify nucleic acids and detect the virus, including but not limited to:

  • Reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR)
  • Isothermal amplification including:
    • Nicking endonuclease amplification reaction (NEAR)
    • Transcription mediated amplification (TMA)
    • Loop-mediated isothermal amplification (LAMP)
    • Helicase-dependent amplification (HDA)
    • Clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR)
    • Strand displacement amplification (SDA)

...

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