Health experts say polymerase chain reaction, or PCR, testing is too sensitive and needs to be altered to rule out people who have insignificant amounts of COVID-19 because they're likely not contagious, the Daily Mail reported Sunday.
The experts pointed to the fact that some 90% of those tested for coronavirus last month in Massachusetts, New York and Nevada carried barely any traces of the virus.
The PCR test, the most widely used diagnostic test for coronavirus in the United States, usually take 37 or 40 cycles, but experts say this is too high because it detects very small amounts of the virus that do not pose a risk.
Doctors say fewer cycle thresholds help zero in on those with greater amounts of the virus who do indeed constitute a risk, The New York Times reported.
What should be implemented is more widespread use of rapid tests with an adjusted threshold to hone in on the most infectious people, according to researchers. This conclusion is contrary to the updated testing guidelines recently put out by the White House Coronavirus Task Force.
Last week the CDC quietly dropped its previous recommendation to test everyone who's come into close contact with an infected person, even those who don't have symptoms.
“The decision not to test asymptomatic people is just really backward,” Dr Michael Mina, an epidemiologist at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, told the Times. “In fact, we should be ramping up testing of all different people, but we have to do it through whole different mechanisms.”
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