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Accuracy Problems with Widely Used Coronavirus Test, US Health Officials Warn

FILE PHOTO: Passengers wait inside a C subway train in New York City. (REUTERS/Brendan Mcdermid/File Photo)

FILE PHOTO: Passengers wait inside a C subway train in New York City. (REUTERS/Brendan Mcdermid/File Photo)

The Food and Drug Administration issued the alert Monday to doctors and laboratory technicians using Thermo Fishers TaqPath genetic test.

Potential accuracy issues with a widely used coronavirus test could lead to false results for patients, U.S. health officials warned.

The Food and Drug Administration issued the alert Monday to doctors and laboratory technicians using Thermo Fishers TaqPath genetic test. Regulators said issues related to the equipment and software used to run the test could lead to inaccuracies.

The warning comes nearly a month after Connecticut public health officials first reported that at least 90 people had received false-positive results for the coronavirus.

A spokeswoman for Thermo Fisher said the company was working with FDA to make sure that laboratory personnel understand the need for strict adherence to the instructions for use.

The FDA said one possible problem was related to equipment that rapidly spins samples in preparation for processing. The agencys letter tells lab workers to follow new instructions developed by the company for this step.

A second issue relates to the software used on Thermo Fishers testing platform. FDA said labs must upgrade the software to a new version.

Lab tests are the backbone of U.S. screening for coronavirus, accounting for more than half of the roughly 750,000 tests developed daily. The tests look for traces of coronavirus’ genetic material in nasal swabs taken from patients.

Thermo Fishers test was granted emergency use by the FDA in mid-March. The test runs on a large machine used in many commercial labs to look for diseases such as HIV, hepatitis and flu.

The FDA has used its emergency powers to OK more than 200 tests for coronavirus since February. No test is perfect and all are expected to give at least a small percentage of false negatives and false positives.