Nucleic Acid Testing (NAT)
NAT is highly sensitive testing technology that DIRECTLY detects the genetic material (DNA or RNA) of various organisms. NAT may be done with traditional polymerase chain reaction (PCR) technology, but other platforms (such as “transcription-mediated amplification” or “TMA”) are also used. Regardless of the platform, the principle is to amplify the genetic material of the organism or directly target specific sequences of the organism’s genome. NAT will virtually always detect the presence of an organism earlier in an infection than serologic methods.
Currently, US blood banks use NAT to detect HIV-1, Hepatitis C, Hepatitis B, West Nile Virus, Zika Virus, and Babesia (in affected states) in blood donors. Sometimes, people redundantly call it “NAT testing” (go ahead, say the whole thing; I’ll wait right here).
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