COVID-19 News

USAMRIID researchers aim to reduce COVID-19 false negatives

Researchers at the Army’s premiere infectious diseases lab are working on a more sensitive test that could detect the coronavirus in people who have no symptoms – a critical step in getting the nation back to “a new sense of normal,” the lab’s chief viral expert told McClatchy.

The experimental work underway at the US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (AMRIID) at Fort Detrick in Maryland comes amid increasing concern among public health officials that existing diagnostic tests are producing false negatives, risking continued spread of the virus.

The Army scientists are focused on creating a more sensitive coronavirus test than those currently approved by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said John Dye, chief of viral immunology at Fort Detrick’s research institute.

“Maybe those asymptomatic people have a very low amount of virus – which is why they’re asymptomatic – and you can’t really tell, they don’t even become positive,” he said. “Scientists around the world, including researchers at our institute, are trying to develop the tests that will allow us to determine is someone infected, is someone not infected, to a very sensitive degree.”

If an individual has had the coronavirus, that individual should have antibodies and will likely be protected in the future, Dye said. He cautioned, however, that if a person does get tested and is discovered to have the antibodies, it is not an all-clear; between the test and subsequent exposure to the virus, that person could have developed a medical condition that would increase their risk of re-infection.

While Fort Detrick has also developed its own antibody test to determine whether an individual has ever had the coronavirus, it is still investigating the extent to which people develop immunity to the virus after initial exposure. Reports have emerged in recent days of individuals falling ill a second time to the coronavirus, or testing positive a second time after receiving a negative test in between.

Read more from McClatchy DC: