COVID: New mutation could be behind confusing PCR results in the UK

Dozens have been getting false negative PCR results after testing positive with a lateral flow test, and it might be because there is a new COVID mutation on the rise.

COVID variant
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COVID variant

Authorities have been made aware of an unusual anomaly that has been occurring with lateral flow and PCR tests. A number of people, who have been tested positive with an LFT, have been getting negative results when getting a follow-up PCR test.

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Under normal circumstances, a positive LFT result is usually an indication that a person is infected with a high viral load, and consequently a PCR test, which is more accurate, should also have a positive reading.

False negative results

However, according to the i, dozens of people in the south west of England have been reporting this strange mix-up and it has urged public health authorities to investigate the matter more seriously. Susan Hopkins, Chief medical adviser of the UK Health Security Agency, said:

We have been made aware of some areas reporting positive LFT test results with subsequent negative PCR tests and we are looking into the cause.

Given the circumstances, she’s requesting people to carefully follow testing instructions to get a more accurate reading. She’s also reminding all those who have been tested positive with an LFT to get a follow-up PCR test without fail.

While the organisation is looking into the confusion, the i has reported that scientists are also currently evaluating a few possible theories.

New mutation?

One of which suggests there might be a new COVID mutation on the rise.

There is a possibility that a COVID variant with a S-gene dropout could be circulating in the country. The coronavirus uses a spike protein to attach itself to human cells, however when that spike protein is missing, it’s called the S-gene dropout.

Previously, those infected with the Alpha variant were getting false negative results as the mutation was also missing the spike protein. Although the PCR test is the most accurate testing method available, it has been known to miss cases that have the S-gene dropout.

A new strain of coronavirus has been discovered in the UK A new strain of coronavirus has been discovered in the UK