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COVID Testing Definition Was Not Changed to Find Millions of New Omicron Cases

Dina Faisal Dina Faisal
16th December 2021
COVID Testing Definition Was Not Changed to Find Millions of New Omicron Cases
The definition of COVID-19 tests did not change (Getty).

The Claim

COVID-19 testing has been redefined, resulting in millions of new cases.

Emerging story

Social media users are sharing an online article claiming that the "definition of what constitutes a positive test" has changed, implying that "millions of new 'COVID' cases will be discovered." 

 The article goes on to state that, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), there is an "S gene target failure" – in other words, the current PCR kits will not detect this sequence and may only detect one or two of the other selected sequences."

A supporting image within the article body

Misbar’s Analysis

The Misbar team investigated and found the claim false. COVID-19 testing was not changed to “discover” Omicron. However, one of the approved PCR tests, Thermo Fisher TaqPath COVID-19 Combo Kit, may be affected (TaqPath). Real-time PCR detection of COVID-19 RNA is possible using Taqpath's sensitive and rapid multiplex diagnostic solution. 

One of the three essential genes on the spike protein for the omicron variant is sometimes missing, but all three genes must be present for a positive test result. The genes, however, are not "simply computer-created "genomes," as the article claims. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends gene sequencing to confirm the COVID-19 virus if two of the three genes are detected.

The Omicron variant also does not affect the diagnostic accuracy of routine tests like PCR and antigen-based rapid diagnostic tests (Ag-RDT). Several S gene targeting PCR assays will be negative because most Omicron variant sequences reported have a deletion in the S gene Because this deletion is rare, SGTF can be used as a proxy marker for Omicron in surveillance. The claim article misquoted the WHO. Like the CDC, the WHO says sequencing can confirm the variant because deletion of the S gene is found in other variants like Delta. So, while it became more difficult to distinguish between variants, the definition of a positive COVID-19 test remained unchanged.

Lab technicians testing for COVID-19 discovered the Omicron variant in early November in South Africa. In the virus's normal genome profile, there was a gene that was missing, indicating that the virus had changed.

The Misbar team has concluded that the claim is false. The COVID-19 tests' definition has remained unchanged since their inception. Alternate explanations for COVID-19's existence have been offered by both the original sharer and the website's author.

Misbar’s Classification


Misbar’s Sources

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