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Disposable screening for COVID-19 misses many infections, researchers warn



RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK – As the number of victims of the COVID-19 pandemic continues to rise as well as the number of deaths, researchers warn that current one-time screening methods lack many infections. Measures to combat COVID-19 therefore remain “very important.”

“One-time screening in apparently healthy people is likely to miss people who are infected. The author team is unsure whether combined screenings, repeated symptom assessment or rapid laboratory tests are useful, ”say the researchers in a study for which a researcher at RTI International in RTP is the lead author.

These approaches could miss anywhere from 20-100% of people infected with COVID-1

9, RTI noted.

“When more people become infected, screening will identify more cases. However, because screening can miss people who are infected, public health measures such as facial clothing, physical distance and quarantine for those who appear to be healthy remain very important, ”the study warned.

There is another side effect, the study concludes: Screenings “can also increase the risk of identifying false positive cases, leading to unnecessary isolation.”

“Our research shows that the likelihood of missing a person who may have COVID-19 through screening is extremely high,” explained Ph.D., Viswanathan. and an expert in systemic review method, director of the RTI-UNC Evidence-based Practice Center.

RTI image

Meera Viswanathan

To improve detection, Viswanathan cited three “key objectives:”

  • Screening methods that are more sensitive and accurate
  • A robust public health infrastructure with a test plan in place
  • Public procurement testing will not succeed without public acceptance

“When someone is currently being screened negatively, it is assumed that they do not have COVID-19. Because asymptomatic proliferation is so common, we cannot assume that assumption, ”Viswanathan added. If more accurate screening methods are developed in the future and they will be used as a tool to find COVID-19 cases, they should be followed up with measures such as testing and isolation for positive cases and quarantine for those suspected of being infected. . “

The study, published through an alliance of researchers, healthcare providers and others known as Cochrane, reviewed results from 20 studies focusing on COVID-19 testing. They found the following:

  • All screening strategies (17 studies, 17,574 individuals), misidentified:

between 20 and 100 out of 100 infected people as healthy
between 0 and 38 people out of 100 healthy people as infected

  • Ask about symptoms (13 studies, 16,762 people), misidentified:

between 40 and 100 out of 100 infected people as health
between 0 and 34 out of 100 healthy people who became infected

  • Temperature measurements asking about international travel, exposure to known infected people and exposure to known or suspected infected persons (6 studies, 14,741 persons), incorrectly identified

between 77 and 100 out of 100 infected people as health
between 0 and 10 out of 100 healthy people who became infected

  • Ask about symptoms plus temperature measurement (2 studies, 779 people), misidentified:

between 31 and 88 out of 100 infected people as health
between 0 and 10 people out of 100 healthy people as infected

However, the researchers said they had “insufficient evidence from two small studies on rapid laboratory tests and repeated symptom assessment to tell how accurate they were at identifying healthy and infected people.”




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