Under-pressure German Covid-19 test lab produces run of false positives

People wait to be tested for possible Covid-19 infection outside a doctor's practice in the Neukoelln district during the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic on October 27, 2020 in Berlin, Germany.
People wait to be tested for possible Covid-19 infection outside a doctor's practice in the Neukoelln district during the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic on October 27, 2020 in Berlin, Germany.
Image: Maja Hitij\Getty Images

A German laboratory wrongly diagnosed 58 out of 60 coronavirus tests as positive, a newspaper reported on Wednesday, after a hospital become suspicious of the results and retested the patients.

The MVZ Laboratory in Augsburg, Bavaria, blamed a high number of tests, a shortage of reagents and time pressure for the false diagnoses, which occurred over a one-week period.

"It was not always possible to double check the positive results in a timely manner due to the high number of samples and the lack of equipment," Managing Director Gabriele Schoen told Munich daily Muenchner Merkur.

The laboratory's normal reagent supplier failed to deliver, forcing it to use an alternative reagent that was not compatible with its testing system, the paper said.

Reuters could not immediately establish if the problem was also affecting other labs in Germany, where rigorous testing has been identified as a factor in the country's relatively low level of Covid-19 infections and deaths.

However, a health ministry spokesman said there was no reason to doubt the "validity and accuracy" of PCR molecular testing.

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