NOV 23, 2021 6:00 AM PST

Stopping COVID False-Positives From Slipping Through the Cracks

WRITTEN BY: Tara Fernandez

False-positive COVID tests results—where the patient isn’t infected but receives a positive result—trigger a cascade of unnecessary patient management activities. 

“False positives may lead to inappropriate quarantine, delay of other necessary medical treatment, or transfer to a COVID-19 ward,” said the University of Missouri’s Lester Layfield

Though relatively rare, improving the accuracy of the most widely used COVID testing platform, the reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR), would benefit patients, healthcare systems, and public health initiatives during the pandemic.

Layfield and colleagues embarked on a mission to curtail the number of RT-PCR false positives, reporting their results in the Journal Pathology-Research and Practice

First, the researchers developed a new protocol that acts as a safety guard for patients with no known exposure to a COVID-positive individual and no signs of infection symptoms test positive. They also deployed the quality control measure when a positive hit occurred in a well adjacent to a specimen with very high virus loads.

In their study, the team implemented the new protocol over the course of two months, where they performed over 24,700 RT-PCR COVID tests. 

About a quarter of these tests came from patients who were not exhibiting any COVID symptoms. Within this group of asymptomatic patients, 288 came up as positive, but with their quality control protocol in place, repeat testing found that 20 of those were actually false positives.

According to Layfield, several factors could contribute to false positives, from sample contamination to human error. This study supports the use of additional quality control measures that diagnostic facilities should take to minimize the risk of false positives. 

 

About the Author
  • Tara Fernandez has a PhD in Cell Biology and has spent over a decade uncovering the molecular basis of diseases ranging from skin cancer to obesity and diabetes. She currently works on developing and marketing disruptive new technologies in the biotechnology industry. Her areas of interest include innovation in molecular diagnostics, cell therapies, and immunology. She actively participates in various science communication and public engagement initiatives to promote STEM in the community.
You May Also Like
JUL 20, 2021
Clinical & Molecular DX
Wearable Health Monitors Powered by Sweaty Fingertips
JUL 20, 2021
Wearable Health Monitors Powered by Sweaty Fingertips
Fingertips have thousands of sweat-producing glands, churning out anywhere from 100 to 1,000 times more sweat than other ...
AUG 17, 2021
Clinical & Molecular DX
Sleep Apnea Doubles the Risk of Sudden Death
AUG 17, 2021
Sleep Apnea Doubles the Risk of Sudden Death
Obstructive sleep apnea, or OSA, is the most commonly reported sleep disorder, with loud snoring being one of the tell-t ...
AUG 24, 2021
Clinical & Molecular DX
A New Chapter in Metastatic Breast Cancer Biomarkers
AUG 24, 2021
A New Chapter in Metastatic Breast Cancer Biomarkers
For patients diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer, it’s often not the primary tumor that has fatal consequences ...
SEP 01, 2021
Clinical & Molecular DX
Will Childhood Cancer Survivors Go On to Have Broken Hearts?
SEP 01, 2021
Will Childhood Cancer Survivors Go On to Have Broken Hearts?
Patients are seven times more likely to have a heart attack or stroke than the general population after receiving treatm ...
NOV 09, 2021
Clinical & Molecular DX
A New Light: How a Particle Accelerator Helped Solve a COVID Mystery
NOV 09, 2021
A New Light: How a Particle Accelerator Helped Solve a COVID Mystery
We know that the coronavirus wreaks havoc on the lungs. About 14 percent of cases are severe, with patients’ lungs ...
NOV 19, 2021
Technology
Artificial Intelligence Could Predict Risk of Atrial Fibrillation
NOV 19, 2021
Artificial Intelligence Could Predict Risk of Atrial Fibrillation
Atrial fibrillation (AF) is a common heart condition—by 2030, the Centers for Disease Control estimates that nearl ...
Loading Comments...