False positive test results for COVID-19 are not common.
As of July 18, out of more than 80,000 tests provided in Saskatchewan, nine were found to be false positives after further investigation. This amounts to 0.01 per cent.
“Investigations of results occur when an inquiry is made directly by a medical care provider to a laboratory microbiologist,” said Lenore Howey, executive director or Saskatchewan Health Authority’s Laboratory Medicine.
While the number of false positive test results is small, why do they happen at all?
“Saskatchewan labs work directly with the Canadian National Microbiology Lab to ensure testing accuracy is in place through a rigorous validation process,” said Howey.
False positives can be due to a number of factors, including analytical errors, or instrumentation issues. However, controls and safeguards are in place to identify possible issues.
Lab personnel review all test results before they report them to medical practitioners and care providers. If a false positive result is suspected, a direct consultation takes place with the lab microbiologist on call and, depending on the findings, the microbiologist may recommend re-testing the sample.
Ryan McDonald, supervisor of Typing and Surveillance with the Roy Romanow Provincial Lab, processes COVID-19 samples.
If you believe you’ve received a false positive test result, please consult directly with your medical practitioner. If your care provider deems further action is required, they can consult with a lab microbiologist.
All Saskatchewan residents are asked to monitor themselves for symptoms as long as COVID-19 is circulating in the population. The province has expanded testing guidelines to make testing available to anyone working outside the home, people who are immunocompromised and others. Everyone should be familiar with self-monitoring and self-isolation precautions in order to keep those around them safe.