BREAKING! COVID-19 Diagnostics: New Research Shows Many COVID-19 PCR Tests Unable To Detect Mutated Strains Of SARS-CoV-2 Coronavirus
: As the SARS-CoV-2 has the potential to mutate, and numerous studies and genomic sequencings have already shown that many mutated strains of the SARS-CoV-2 has emerged, it is critically significant to check the efficacy of current diagnostic tests, warns York University researchers, who found seven out of 27 methods had potential sequence mismatch issues that may lead to underperforming or false-negative COVID-19 test results.
Majority of the tests that are still being used today were developed early in the outbreak when the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus was first identified and sequenced. The researchers say it is important to re-evaluate them periodically to ensure these tests still work.
Research associate from York University Dr Kashif Aziz Khan who is also corresponding author of a new study told Thailand Medical News, "COVID-19 tests use polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assays to diagnose the virus in patients, but if those assays are mismatched due to genetic variability in the viral genome, that raises the concern that the tests may not be detecting all the circulating variants of the virus and results could be inaccurate>"
The study by Dr Kashif Aziz Khan and Associate Professor Peter Cheung from the Faculty of Science is published in the journal: Royal Society Open Science
The researchers said that quickly correcting any mismatches between the assays and the SARS-CoV-2 genome may help to improve the sensitivity and accuracy of some of the diagnostic tests.
Interestingly, the early sequencing of the virus allowed for the development of several PCR detection protocols by multiple national organizations that were published by the World Health Organization (WHO), but it may have also led to tests that do not account for variations and mutations.
The researchers said that this is not uncommon with viruses and has led at times to improper diagnosis of influenza, dengue, rabies, respiratory syncytial virus, hepatitis B and human immunodeficiency virus.
The study team tested genetic variations in more than 17,000 publicly available viral genome sequences worldwide and performed an exhaustive evaluation of 27 published diagnostic PCR assays, including those recommended by the WHO.
Dr Khan added, "These findings are potentially important for clinicians, laboratory professionals and policy-makers as it gives them a better idea of which tests may deliver the best results and how to ensure the tests they are using are properly matched to the virus genome.”
The implications of the study is also worrying as it means that test results in many countries could be wrong and that many false negatives could be a potential danger in many communities and countries.
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