Rapid COVID-19 tests give false-negatives, researchers say

The rapid COVID-19 tests that are being used by many states including Rhode Island have been shown to produce false-negative results under certain conditions.

LINCOLN, R.I. (WLNE) – The rapid COVID-19 tests that are being used by many states including Rhode Island have been shown to produce false-negative results under certain conditions.

The Abbott ID NOW COVID-19 device is what the CVS rapid testing site at Twin River is using to test symptomatic people, giving them results in just 15 minutes.

Researchers at the Cleveland Clinic told NPR that they processed more than 200 positive coronavirus specimens using five testing systems. The ID NOW device detected COVID-19 in 84.4% of the samples. The clinic said the testing system, that’s been distributed by the federal government, had produced the highest false-negative rate than any other test they put the samples through.

Abbott Laboratories responded to the findings in a press release, saying hospital and academic labs have been validating the ID NOW test by using viral transport media, which is a liquid solution to store and preserve a virus sample for transport.

“This method can reduce the sensitivity of the test through dilution, which can potentially lead to false-negative results,” the statement read.

Abbott went on to say that ID NOW is designed for urgent care centers, physicians’ office labs, emergency departments, and retail settings, where swabs are tested directly on the device after collection.

“In consultation with the FDA, we have instructed our customers not to use VTM for the ID NOW COVID-19 rapid test. The sample (swab) should be placed directly in the instrument for testing and not placed in any other media. We have updated our product information and are directly communicating with our customers.”

A spokesperson for Abbott Laboratories did not respond to our request for additional comment.

Rhode Island Department of Health Director Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott said Tuesday that when rapid testing first began in Rhode Island, some samples were re-tested at the state labs and had “consistent results.”

Anyone with symptoms, whether positive for COVID-19 or not, are urged to stay home.

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Categories: Coronavirus, Massachusetts, News, Rhode Island