BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Laboratories across Europe can now access control material to enable them to avoid mistakenly telling people they are free of the coronavirus when in fact they are infected, the European Commission said on Wednesday.
The material was developed by the Commission’s Joint Research Centre in Italy to fill a gap in the market. A German biotech company has now made enough to spot false negative results in up to 60 million coronavirus tests.
“This is a major achievement by our researchers, which will be crucial for our exit strategy when the time comes to start lifting social distancing measures,” European Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakidou said in a statement.
A survey published in mid-February of laboratories in European Union countries and others such as Britain, Iceland and Norway showed that the greatest challenge for implementing tests was the lack of such control material.
The EU executive said 3,000 samples were now ready to be dispatched to testing laboratories in the European Union, as well as Britain, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. One sample tube is enough to check up to 20,000 tests.
A positive control is a key part of a test and seen more commonly in pregnancy test kits. The control is designed always to produce a positive result to show that the test is working. It can then catch out a test that produces a false negative result for someone infected by the virus.
The charge per sample is 20 euros ($21.87), plus shipping costs, and currently limited to one per laboratory per month.
The new material is a synthetic, non-infectious part of the virus and based on the part that has remained stable after the virus has mutated.
The Joint Research Centre is the Commission’s science service, with research sites in five countries.
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(Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop; editing by Philippa Fletcher)