Coronavirus tests 'may be picking up traces of dead virus':
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The tests used to find out if someone is COVID positive could be finding traces of the virus that are no longer active, some scientists are saying.

A study by members of the University of Oxford's Centre for Evidence-based Medicine (CEBM) and the University of the West of England found that there was a risk of "false positives" because of the way people are currently tested for coronavirus.

They looked at 25 studies on the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test - the very sensitive test widely used to find out if someone has the virus in their system.

The test gives a positive or negative result, which the scientists say amounts to a simplistic "yes" - someone has the virus, or "no" - they don't have the virus.

But they found the tests were able to detect traces of the virus's genetic material for a much longer period than it remains infectious - meaning a person who tests positive may have the virus in their system, but won't necessarily pass it on.

Other genetic material it detects might be fragments of the dead virus - which have already been dealt with by a body's immune system.

The authors wrote in their conclusion of the paper, which was published as a pre-print on the Medrxiv online journal and is yet to be peer-reviewed: "Prospective routine testing of reference and culture specimens are necessary for each country involved in the pandemic to establish the usefulness and reliability of (the) PCR (test) for COVID-19 and its relation to patients' factors."

"Infectivity is related to the date of onset of symptoms and cycle threshold level."

PCR tests work by taking a sample from a person and applying a process to increase the amount of DNA or genetic material in that sample so that it can be examined.

The experts say there is a risk the tests can amplify COVID-19 genetic material which is not a whole virus, or material which is no longer capable of causing a full-blown infection.

Source: https://www.bbc.com/news/health-54000629
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