CREDIT WESTPHALIAN TIMES: An investigative piece by the New York Times has raised questions about the validity of the PCR type COVID mass-testing used in countries all around the world to identify COVID cases and to subsequently make policy decisions. This has sparked debate in the US, the UK, and Israel but so far not in Canada, even though we face the same issue.
So, how does Canada’s PCR testing regime compare to America’s? All indications say, not much better.
Over a two-week investigation, Westphalian Times has queried provincial health authorities and public health labs and found that in Canada the majority of COVID-19 test diagnostic standards may be too sensitive to reliably identify people currently suffering from COVID and thus detect and isolate those who are infectious.
The Westphalian Times has found that according to prominent epidemiology experts in the US and the UK, up to 90% of the Canadian COVID-19 cases could be false positives
and that Canadians and their doctors are not given the important cycle threshold statistic when they get a positive result on a COVID test.
We contacted provincial health authorities and governments in Alberta, Ontario, Quebec, British Columbia, Manitoba, Nova Scotia, Saskatchewan, and New Brunswick to determine the level of sensitivity used in their PCR testing for COVID.
Only two provinces, Quebec and Manitoba, were willing to share their positive-cutoff Ct values, one of the critical statistics used to determine whether the test is finding live virus or viral remnants or possible contamination.
Ontario, British Columbia, Nova Scotia, and Saskatchewan refused to share their PCR testing information. British Columbia said they did not have the “capacity” to retrieve this information. However, Saskatchewan did provide us with a Journal of Clinical Virology study from July of 2020 that included that data from provincial labs about PCR testing and the positivity cutoffs each province uses.
It is unclear why British Columbia said they did not have the capacity to retrieve this data as it was published in the journal article provided by Saskatchewan. Alberta and New Brunswick failed to respond to our requests at all.
Explaining PCR testing and the importance of Cycle Threshold
The current COVID testing is based on polymerase chain reaction (PCR) – a “a fast and inexpensive technique used to ‘amplify’ – copy – small segments of DNA.” Many internationally recognized experts on virology and PCR testing are questioning if the tests have been made overly sensitive and many positives are the result of long dead and no longer contagious virus or even contamination in labs. PCR testing was invented to find genetic viral material in a sample and has not traditionally been used as the sole method for identifying people suffering from a viral or bacterial disease.
COVID testing is typically performed using a nasopharyngeal swab, a 6-inch long swab inserted deep into the nostril. The swab is rotated for a while and then it is sent to a lab where a PCR test will dramatically amplify the amount of genetic material captured and then compare it to the DNA or RNA of a particular segment of the COVID virus (reference RNA).
To get enough genetic material to test the PCR process increases the genetic material present by copying it and then copying it again over and over. Each of these increasing steps is called a “cycle” and the genetic material in the solution is reacted against the reference DNA to determine a positive. If the sample contains a large amount of COVID virus it will react positive after only a few cycles, while a sample with small amounts of genetic material will require more cycles to amplify enough 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).
On August 29th, Apoorva Mandavilli of the New York Times published a story entitled: “Your Coronavirus Test Is Positive. Maybe It Shouldn’t Be.” Mandavilli interviewed prominent virologists about the current PCR testing performed in the United States. She reported that in many parts of the US cycle thresholds for the test are set very high, often as high as 40 cycles. Many prominent experts think this is too high.
Professor Michael Mina epidemiologist at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health suggested that these tests might detect not only live virus but also genetic fragments leftover from previous infection, “akin to finding a hair in a room long after a person has left. It is well established in COVID research that PCR tests might find positives from infections that had ended more than 2 months prior.