Suboptimal Biological Sampling as a Probable Cause of False-Negative COVID-19 Diagnostic Test Results

False-negative severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 test results can negatively impact the clinical and public health response to coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). We used droplet digital polymerase chain reaction (ddPCR) to demonstrate that human DNA levels, a stable molecular marker of sampling quality, were significantly lower in samples from 40 confirmed or suspected COVID-19 cases that yielded negative diagnostic test results (ie, suspected false-negative test results) compared with a representative pool of 87 specimens submitted for COVID-19 testing. Our results support suboptimal biological sampling as a contributor to false-negative COVID-19 test results and underscore the importance of proper training and technique in the collection of nasopharyngeal specimens.

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