A common theme throughout this pandemic is that many internationally recognized and renowned experts in the field of infectious diseases and virology are questioning the efficacy of polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests, the tool being used to diagnose a “positive” COVID case.
The PCR test is not designed to identify active infectious disease. Instead, it identifies genetic material, be it partial, alive, or even dead. PCR amplifies this material in samples to find traces of COVID-19, and this is exactly why it’s come under criticism.
If the sample taken from a nasal swab contains a large amount of COVID virus it will react positive after only a few cycles of amplification, while a smaller sample with small amounts of genetic material will require more cycles to amplify enough of the genetic material to get a positive result. Since the PCR test amplifies traces of COVID-19 through cycles, a lower number of cycles needed to get a positive suggests the presence of a higher viral load for the person being tested and therefore a higher contagion potential. The number of cycling required to identify viral material in a given sample is called the cycle threshold (Ct).
This essentially means that throughout this pandemic, if a Ct greater than 35 is being used, the number of people who test and have tested “positive” are actually not infectious nor capable of transmitting the virus to others. They have a very small viral load, if any at all. What’s tricky about this is as we hear of ‘new cases’ we don’t have the nuance of how many cycles were applied to each test, and therefore have no clear idea as to whether a case is even infectious – although each case is being presented in the media as a huge problem.
For example, an article published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases found that among positive PCR samples with a cycle count over 35, only 3% of the samples showed viral replication. This can be interpreted as, if someone tests positive via PCR when a Ct of 35 or higher is used, the probability that said person is actually infected is less than 3%, the probability that said result is a false positive is 97%. (source)
Furthermore, questions regarding asymptomatic spread have been raised. We already know that spread in an outdoor setting is extremely rare, something that’s been brought up recently here in Ontario, Canada due to the fact that outdoor amenities like golf courses, basketball courts, tennis courts, parks and more have been closed against the will of the majority.
What about inside? Infected individuals who are asymptomatic are more than an order of magnitude less likely to spread the disease compared to symptomatic COVID-19 patients. A meta-analysis of 54 studies from around the world found that within households – where none of the safeguards that restaurants are required to apply are typically applied – symptomatic patients passed on the disease to household members in 18% of instances, while asymptomatic patients passed on the disease to household members in 0.7% of instances.
This is why many academics have urged authorities to stop the testing of asymptomatic individuals. Combined this fact with the likelihood of asymptomatic spread is low with the flaws of PCR testing, it makes sense. Health policy has been guided and dictated by the number of “cases.” It’s why lockdowns and mask mandates have been put in place regardless of the damage they cause and have caused. What if the majority of “positive” cases during this pandemic have been people who are not capable of spreading the disease? It would represent an astronomical mistake on the part of multiple governments and the World Health Organization (WHO).
The most recent academic to bring up these concerns was Dr. Jared Bullard, a Microbiologist and Laboratory Specialist, who is a witness for the Manitoba (Canada) government in a hearing where churches and individuals are challenging government lockdown restrictions in the Court of Queen’s Bench as unjustified violations of the Charter freedoms to associate, worship, and assemble peacefully. The hearing commenced on May 3, 2021.
Manitoba has confirmed that it utilizes Ct’s of up to 40, and even 45 in some cases. According to the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, (where the 56% number comes from) the legal organizations representing the people and organizations that are challenging lockdown restrictions,
Questioned under oath by Justice Centre lawyers on Monday May 10, Dr. Bullard acknowledged that the PCR test has significant limitations. The head of Cadham Provincial Laboratory in Winnipeg, Dr. Bullard admitted that PCR test results do not verify infectiousness, and were never intended to be used to diagnose respiratory illnesses. Dr. Bullard testified that PCR tests can be positive for up to 100 days after an exposure to the virus, and that PCR tests do nothing more than confirm the presence of fragments of viral RNA of the target SARS CO-V2 virus in someone’s nose. He testified that, while a person with Covid-19 is infectious for a one-to-two week period, non-viable (harmless) viral SARS CO-V2 fragments remain in the nose, and can be detected by a PCR test for up to 100 days after exposure.
Dr. Bullard testified that the most accurate way to determine whether someone is actually infectius with Covid is to attempt to grow a cell culture in the lab from a patient sample. If a cell culture will not grow the virus in the lab, a patient is likely not infectious. A study from Dr. Bullard and his colleagues found that only 44% of positive PCR test results would actually grow in the lab.
Dr. Bullard’s findings call into question the practice used in Manitoba (and elsewhere in Canada) of the results of classifying positive PCR tests as “cases,” which implies infectivity. Equating positive PCR tests to infectious cases, as so many provinces have done over the course of the past 13 months, is incorrect and inaccurate, according to this Manitoba Government witness.
Dr. Bullard acknowledged that he has been closely studying the correlation between Cycle threshold (Ct) value and infectiousness since at least May 7, 2020. Dr. Bullard acknowledged that Manitoba has known for some time that a given PCR test’s Ct value is inversely correlated with infectiousness. This means that testing for Covid at higher threshold levels can result in false positives as explained in this article. Even the World Health Organization (WHO) notes that careful interpretation of weak positive results is needed.
Weak results are those run at higher thresholds (more cycles). For example, someone with a positive PCR test that is run at 18 cycles is more likely to be sick and infectious than someone who has a test run at a Ct value of 40.
Dr. Bullard confirmed this was one of the first studies of its kind linking Ct value to infectiousness, and his study confirmed the findings of other studies in France and elsewhere.
Dr. Bullard also testified that Ct value (how many amplification cycles were used in a given PCR test to reach a positive test result) is significant as a proxy or indicator for infectiousness.
However, despite Dr. Bullard’s findings and recommendations in his two peer-reviewed studies, Manitoba still does not consider Ct values as a proxy for infectiousness in its public health response to Covid-19. Both Dr. Bullard and Manitoba Chief Medical Officer Dr. Brent Roussin confirmed under cross-examination that Ct values are not provided to public health officials by laboratories. Dr. Roussin admitted that he could mandate that the Ct value be provided to him, but that he has not done so.
Some jurisdictions, for example Florida, do consider Ct value in their public health response to Covid.
Finally, it should be noted that some Canadian news agencies have quoted Dr. Bullard as testifying that a positive PCR tests indicates infectivity 99.9% of the time. This is incorrect. Rather, Dr. Bullard testified that a PCR test will detect any viral RNA that is present in a sample 99.9% of the time. However, Dr. Bullard testified that determining whether or not a sample is actually infectious (containing a viable virus, capable of replicating) needs to be confirmed by lab culture. As noted, only 44% of the “positive” samples using a Ct of 18 returned a viable lab culture. Samples tested at a Ct of over 25, according to Dr. Bullard’s report, produced no viable lab cultures.
In July, professor Carl Heneghan, director for the centre of evidence-based medicine at Oxford University and outspoken critic of the current UK response to the pandemic, wrote a piece titled “How many Covid diagnoses are false positives?” He has argued that the proportion of positive tests that are false in the UK could also be as high as 50%.
As far back as 2007, Gina Kolata published an article in the New York times about how declaring virus pandemics based on PCR tests can end in a disaster. The article was titled Faith in Quick Test Leads to Epidemic That Wasn’t. You can read that full story here if the previous link doesn’t work.
An article written by Robert Hagen, MD for MedPage Today explains the issues with COVID testing as well, especially when it comes to results, false positives and symptomatic people compared to asymptomatic people. This article also goes in depth as to why false positives will be, and probably are very high. It’s called, “What’s Wrong With Covid Case Counts?”
22 researchers put out a paper explaining why, according to them, it’s quite clear that the PCR test is not effective in identifying COVID-19 cases. As a result we may be seeing a significant amount of false positives. This also made a lot of noise.
There are countless examples, I just wanted to give some context. You can find more in an article I recently published regarding an announcement from the CDC stating that they will be collecting samples from COVID tests of vaccinated individuals to try and determine if the virus can break through the protection of the vaccine. In doing so the CDC has specified a cycle threshold for PCR tests of 28 or lower. Why hasn’t it been specified for unvaccinated individuals? I wrote this prior to a new recent announcement that the CDC will not even be collecting test data from vaccinated individuals anymore unless they end up in the hospital or dying.
It’s truly unfortunate that inconsistencies regarding PCR testing have been ignored and unacknowledged, while health policy is being dictated by how many present cases there are.
This article (Manitoba Chief Microbiologist & Lab Specialist: 56% of Positive “Cases” Are Not Infectious) was originally published on Collective Evolution and is published under a Creative Commons license.