FORT PIERCE, Fla. — Officials at a laboratory in St. Lucie County said antigen tests struggle to detect the new omicron variant.
Scientists at Dynix Diagnostix in Fort Pierce believe false negatives could be contributing to the spread of COVID-19.
Inside the lab at the center, scientists are hard at work testing hundreds of samples for the coronavirus.
"We have a site in Martin County where those tests are coming to us. They're doing an antigen. They're also doing a PCR with us. We found 80 positive results the other day out of that site," said Rob Toher, the chief operating officer at Dynix Diagnostix. "Of those 80 positive results, there were 49 of them that were negative from an antigen perspective."
Toher said when it comes to the new omicron variant, polymerase chain reaction tests (PCR) are superior compared to the rapid antigen test.
"People need to be safely tested," said Toher. "They need to understand whether they have the disease to spread it."
"It is apples and oranges with antigen testing and PCR testing," said Stephanie Bazel, laboratory manager at Dynix Diagnostix. "With an antigen test, you're basically testing for a protein that on the outside of the capsule of the virus, where the PCR test, you're looking at genetic fragments of the virus."
The new omicron variant has proved to be more contagious.
In just the past month, positive test results at Dynix have skyrocketed.
"The last week of November into the first week of December we had about 4-7% depending on the number of sites, and that exponentially has grown," said Toher. "The second week we went up to 15, the third week to 20, and now this week alone, we're showing 40% positive."