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Published on March 16, 2020


For General Information, see also: Testing for respiratory viruses at UNC McLendon Laboratories

Test ID LAB12019
EPIC Order
CPT Code(s) 87798
Group/Individual Test Group
Laboratory Molecular Microbiology
Tube Station 82
Specimen Routine:
  • Nasopharyngeal (NP Swab) collected in Universal Viral Transport Media (UTM/VTM); flocked swab preferred**

  • NP swab sent in transport tube (dry)
    or in UNCMC supplied phosphate buffered saline (PBS)

  • Oropharyngeal (OP/Throat Swab) sent in transport tube (dry)
    or in UTM/VTM
    or UNCMC supplied PBS

  • Nasal (mid-turbinate collection) swab sent in transport tube (dry)
    or in UTM/VTM
    or UNCMC supplied PBS

  • Tracheal Aspirate
  • BAL/BW
  • Nasal Aspirate/Nasal Wash (NA/NW)
Click here for Nasopharyngeal swab ordering information and guide for specimen collection.
Click here for Orophayrngeal swab ordering information and guide for specimen collection.
Click here for collection requirements for allowed specimen types.

**NP is preferred specimen

Availability Routine: Daily
Turnaround Time Routine: 24h


Guidelines for Appropriate use of the rapid COVID-19 PCR test: See Memo

**NP and NP/OP swabs in UTM or PBS only.**

Reference Range Normal: Not Detected

This real time RT-PCR (rtRT-PCR) test screens for the virus that causes COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2). Negative results do not preclude SARS-CoV-2 infection and should not be used as the sole basis for patient management decisions. Negative results must be combined with clinical observations, patient history, and epidemiological information.

Patient and provider information can be found below according to the test performed:

UNC Health COVID-19 real-time RT-PCR: providers and patients

Abbott RealTime SARS-COV-2 Assay: providers and patients

Abbott Alinity m SARS-CoV-2 Assay: providers and patients

Xpert® Xpress SARS-CoV-2– Cepheid: providers and patients

BioFire Respiratory Panel 2.1 (with SARS-CoV-2): providers and patients

DiaSorin Simplexa COVID-19 Direct Assay: providers and patients

Cepheid Xpert Xpress SARS-CoV-2/Flu/RSV: providers and patients

Cepheid Xpert Xpress CoV-2/Flu/RSV Plus: providers and patients

Store and transport 2-8C within 8 hours of collection, if not immediately tubed to the Microbiology Laboratory (tube station 82).

Performance Characteristics

limit of detection in EUA
limit of detection at UNC
Xpress SARS-CoV-21 and Flu/RSV/SARS-CoV-2 combo2 tests

0.0200 PFU/mL1

131 copies/mL2

200 copies/mL
Abbott m2000 100 copies/mL 200 copies/mL
Abbott Alinity m 100 copies/mL 200 copies/mL
BioFire RPP 2.1 160-500 copies/mL 250-500 copies/mL
DiaSorin Simplexa COVID-19 Direct 500 copies/mL 500 copies/mL
UNC Health LDT 880 copies/mL 880 copies/mL

Additional comparative studies can be found here:

EUA documentation for each test can be found here:

Reviewed by christopher parker on October 14, 2021

Note: Reference ranges provided on this web site are for guidance only, and may not reflect the most recent changes. Refer to laboratory reports for current reference data.

UNC Hospitals
McLendon Clinical Laboratories
101 Manning Drive
Chapel Hill, NC 27514