False negatives complicate virus testing

Updated: Apr 12, 2020, 07:43 IST | Agencies | Washington

The majority of tests around the world use a technology called PCR, which detects pieces of the virus in mucus samples

As Coronavirus tests become more widely available across the US, scientists have warned about a growing concern: Many people with negative results might actually have the virus.

The majority of tests around the world use a technology called PCR, which detects pieces of the virus in mucus samples. But "there are a lot of things that impact whether or not the test actually picks up the virus," Priya Sampathkumar, an infectious diseases specialist at Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, said.

"It depends on how much virus the person is shedding, how the test was collected and whether it was done appropriately by someone used to collecting these swabs, and then how long it sat in transport." Different companies around the world are now producing different tests, so it's hard to have a precise overall figure.

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