News Why China's detection change may reveal "false positives"

Why China’s detection change may reveal “false positives”


Chinese workers make a nucleic acid detection reagent for the new codivid-19 coronavirus. Comwin Biotech plant in Taizhou city – Tang Dehong / Costfoto / Sipa USA /

  • For two days, the Chinese authorities have decided to change the method of detection of the coronavirus which causes Covid-19 disease.
  • Now, a chest X-ray is considered sufficient on suspected cases to diagnose the virus.
  • Two researchers in Lille believe that this method is an emergency measure and that patients could turn out to be “false positives”.

A question of efficiency. For two days, the Chinese authorities have decided to change the method of detection of the coronavirus which causes Covid-19 disease. A disease that has caused more than 1,300 deaths, mainly in
China. Now, a chest X-ray is considered sufficient on suspected cases to diagnose the virus.

Until then, standard nucleic acid tests were essential to detect this new coronavirus and confirm the disease. This is still the case in France. So why has China changed its way of doing things?

An emergency measure

The Chinese authorities had justified this new method by their desire to provide patients with treatment as soon as possible. “This is the case,” confirms Jean Dubuisson, director of the Center for Infection and Immunity at the Institut Pasteur de Lille (IPL). Health officials seem overwhelmed by the magnitude of the problem. They find it difficult to take standard tests routinely and may miss some affected patients. “

“This strategy is no more effective in detecting the coronavirus, but it makes it possible to detect a possible sign of the disease more quickly. It is an emergency measure. In France, we always use standard tests because we are faced with few cases, ”adds Sandrine Belouzard, CNRS researcher at Institut Pasteur de Lille (IPL).

Jean Dubuisson and Sandrine Belouzard, researchers at the Institut Pasteur in Lille. – G. Durand / 20 Minutes

Clearly, it may be that some patients considered to be affected are ultimately “false positives”. Because a radio does not allow 100% detection of the pathology. “We see an opacity, but it can also designate a pneumology and not the Covid-19. This may be why the number of cases suddenly increased, “continues Sandrine Belouzard.

The pangolin, responsible?

The two Lille researchers animated, this Thursday evening, in the premises of the Pasteur Institute, a conference * general public on the prospects of research on this new coronavirus.

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“These researchers are trying to characterize the interactions of coronaviruses with cells in order to better understand their viral cycle. The results of this research should help identify antiviral and vaccine targets and develop therapeutic approaches against emerging coronaviruses, “said IPL.

However, for the moment, no drug or vaccine is listed. “Clinical trials tested on 700 patients are underway in China using an antiviral used against Ebola, but there is not enough time to get results”, slips Jean Dubuisson, also referent to the Organization World Health Organization (WHO).

The latter announced that “new recommendations to deal with the coronavirus must also be issued on Friday by the WHO.” Meanwhile, Chinese researchers have identified this 99% coronavirus similar to that of pangolin. “It may have been this animal that transmitted it to humans,” notes Sandrine Belouzard.

* The Institut Pasteur de Lille is also launching a call for donations on its website


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